Van Basten: The Best are matchwinners

When Marco van Basten discusses what it means to be named the best player in the world, football lovers tend to sit back and listen. “Obviously it’s a team sport, but at the same time you’re also looking for stars, for good players who can make the difference,” the legendary Dutch striker told in reference to The Best FIFA Football Awards™, which, on 9 January, will pay tribute to the players and coaches who have shone brightest in 2016.

During the course of his career, Van Basten combined team spirit and individual brilliance to perfection. In winning title after title with Ajax, AC Milan and the Netherlands, he left an indelible mark on the game with his classy finishing and all-round skills, which also earned him a number of individual accolades, among them the 1992 FIFA World Player of the Year award.

“It’s a huge honour to gain the recognition of your peers,” continued Van Basten, who is pleased that the world’s national team captains and coaches will have a 50 per cent say in who takes away The Best awards. “They’re right at the heart of the game and they know just how hard it is to be a good player and make the difference. It’s so rewarding to be recognised by them as the best. It’s a huge compliment.”

Appointed FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development in September, the former striker added: “I’m also delighted with the decision to open up voting to the fans, because football wouldn’t be what it is without them.”

It’s often the players who score goals and do something special, I think they’re the players who capture people’s imaginations, and that’s how it works.

Offering a few clues to the people who will be voting for The Best, the Dutch great said: “What you’re looking for are stars who can turn matches with their dribbles, assists and goals. Those are the moments that stand out most for people, but there are also a lot of defenders who do their jobs well, and goalkeepers too.”

Warming to his theme, one he knows a thing or two about, Van Basten added: “You ask yourself: ‘Look, who is the best player on the planet, the one who makes the difference and has the biggest impact on games?’ In the end, it’s often the players who score goals and do something special. I think they’re the players who capture people’s imaginations, and that’s how it works. Most of the players nominated for The Best are simply amazing.”

The former Oranje star also sat on the panel of experts that chose the nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award, alongside Marta and Gabriel Batistuta. Had the award been in existence 30 years ago, Van Basten could well have added it to his collection of silverware, not least for the sumptuous volley that sealed the Netherlands’ 2-0 defeat of the Soviet Union in the UEFA EURO 1988 final.