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1988 Ballon d’Or Winner: Marco van Basten. Total Dutch Domination

In 1988, Netherlands forward Marco van Basten won the first of his three Ballon d’Or titles.

He became only the third Dutch international to claim the award after Johan Cruyff in 1971, 1973 and 1974 along with Ruud Gullit the previous calendar year in 1987.

Gullit claimed second place this time around with his international compatriot Frank Rijkaard in third, which completed an entirely Dutch Ballon d’Or podium.

It was a year that the game became totally engulfed by the star quality of a nation. A rising midfield maestro, an established playmaker and generational striking talent combining to deadly effect.

1988 was when the world saw three Dutchmen achieve total domination of European football.

Domestic Domination

Marco van Basten was far from an unknown entity in European football having already enjoyed a stellar 1986/87 campaign with Ajax by scoring 43 goals in 43 games.

In the summer of 1987, Milan president Silvio Berlusconi signed Van Basten for a fee of around £1.5 million along with fellow countryman Ruud Gullit.

The Italian side paid a then world record transfer fee of £18 million for Gullit as a replacement for departing English midfielder Ray Wilkins.

Their new Dutch striker played only eleven matches in the league during his debut season, scoring just three times having become consistently troubled by ankle injuries. Yet Van Basten’s first campaign with Milan ended in success as they won their first Scudetto in eight years.

As he ventured into the summer’s European Championships, Van Basten was once again fit, slowly regaining form and ready to conquer the continent.

International Domination

It was at Euro 1988 that Van Basten truly built a lasting legacy. It was the competition for which he is most fondly remembered by the masses on the global stage. The striker played a pivotal role in the Dutch team’s eventual triumph.

Van Basten’s start to the tournament was explosive as he scored a hat trick against England in the first round. It would see his country qualify from Group 2 in second place behind the Soviet Union.

The Netherlands progressed to the Semifinals to play Germany. Van Basten slotted home a winning goal in the 88th minute to complete a second half comeback with the Dutch defeating the Germans 2-1.

Perhaps Van Basten’s most revered moment however arrived in the final against the Soviet Union. He scored a spectacular volley from an acute angle as the Dutch won 2-0 and lifted the trophy.

In a 2002 UK poll, Van Basten’s wonder volley was even ranked 21st on a list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

He finished the competition as top scorer with a total of five goals and was also named player of the tournament.

Following an incredible Championships, Van Basten’s teammate Frank Rijkaard also joined AC Milan for around £2 million, in the process reuniting the trio of players that had effectively secured Euro 88 for the Netherlands.

The same three players would later propel Milan to a whole new level!

1988 Ballon d’Or Top 20

Rank Name Club(s) Nationality Points
1 Marco van Basten AC Milan Netherlands 119
2 Franco Baresi Milan Italy 80
3 Frank Rijkaard Milan Netherlands 43
4 Lothar Matthäus Internazionale (Italy) West Germany 24
5 Peter Shilton Derby County England 22
6 Dragan Stojković Red Star Belgrade (Yugoslavia) Yugoslavia 19
7 Ruud Gullit Milan Netherlands 16
8 Gheorghe Hagi Steaua București Romania 11
Jürgen Klinsmann Internazionale (Italy) West Germany 11
10 Jean-Pierre Papin Marseille France 10
Michel Preud’homme Mechelen Belgium 10
12 Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko Dynamo Kyiv (Soviet Union) Soviet Union 6
13 Míchel Real Madrid Spain 5
14 Andreas Brehme Internazionale (Italy) West Germany 3
Paulo Futre Atlético Madrid Portugal 3
Karl-Heinz Riedle Werder Bremen West Germany 3
17 John Barnes Liverpool England 2
Packie Bonner Celtic Republic of Ireland 2
Glenn Hysén Liverpool Sweden 2
Oleh Kuznetsov Dynamo Kyiv (Soviet Union) Soviet Union 2
Andreas Möller Borussia Dortmund West Germany 2
Julio Salinas Barcelona Spain 2


Marco van Basten’s 1987/88 season would prove his poorest full campaign in terms of goalscoring – finding the back of the net only nine times across all competitions.
Ruud Gullit’s display during 1988 was remarkable and during the 1987/88 season he netted 13 times from an advanced midfield position.
Arrigo Sacchi is credited for transforming Frank Rijkaard from a central defender and into a world class holding midfielder following his arrival at Milan.

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