Arsenal History: Marc Overmars – The Dutch sensation that Wenger called “World Class”

Marc Overmars

If you wanted a winger who could run sporadically around the back line of any side catching them out before tucking the ball in the back of the net, well, Marc Overmars was your man!

Overmars once hailed by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for containing “great mental strength” and being a “world class player” during his career impressed at Ajax and Arsenal.  At the lucky Ajax he clinched one Champions League, a solo Intercontinental Cup, a hat-trick of Eredivisie, one Dutch Cup, the Dutch Super cup. Whilst in North London Overmars held one Premier League, FA Cup and Charity Shield all inside a year!

In his short three-year tenure (1997-2000) at Highbury Overmars tasted a compact 1997/98 season of silverware when the Premier League and FA Cup were raised seeing Arsenal win the double. Overmars played a crucial role in both competitions victories, he met the occasion against Everton to seal the title in May wrapping up two goals in a 4-0 toppling. On top of that he handed The Gunners the lead in the 2-0 Cup final walk in the park over Newcastle United.

At the crack of the 1998/99 season, he clambered in the first goal of the 1998 Community Shield in which Manchester United were overcome 3-0 by Arsenal. This saw Overmars pick up his third and final winners medal at Highbury.

Despite Arsenal failing to retain the FA cup the following season when they lost in the semis to eventual champions Manchester United, Overmars famously featured in the chaotic fifth round. He took delight in netting a debatable strike in the original game when he hit the target after teammate Kanu didn’t hand over the ball after a Sheffield United man was down injured. However, like the good gentleman he was, and is, Wenger proposed for a replay to the FA, which was kindly accepted by both parties, fortunately The Gunners met victory (2-1) again in the tie to put it to bed in which Overmars put the ball in the back of the net again.

By the end of 1999 Overmars had scored his first ever Arsenal hat-trick In November against Middlesbrough within months of the 1999/2000 campaign.  The season would witness the midfielder pull on the Gunners shirt for the final time in the UEFA Cup final which the North Londoners were bruised 4-1 on penalties following a 0-0 stalemate versus Turkish team Galatasaray. This was far from the European love story he had indulged in with Ajax.

After having ran out of the blocks for Arsenal 142 times and rounding up 41 strikes Overmars was purchased by European giants Barcelona in 2000 for £25 million, far more than the believed to be 5-7 million figure fee he signed for at Highbury for in 1997 as one of the most heralded wingers around in world football with Ajax.

A year previously he won the Eredivisie treble in 1996 before being voted out as Ajax’s Player of the Year. However, his greatest domestic achievement had already been achieved the season before that, when Ajax were the most respected and talented team in Europe claiming the 1995 Champions League once AC Milan were marginally broken 1-0.

Overmars played a crucial part in Ajax reaching Vienna that year after netting in the semis to seal off the 5-2 victory on aggregate over Bayern Munich. Not long afterwards the 1995 Intercontinental Cup was just about sealed 4-3 on penalties against Brazilian team Gremio after 120 minutes in Japan in Tokyo.

He really did get recognised by the whole world, after the Eredivisie was lifted in 1994 Overmars was labelled FIFA World Cup Best Young Player, it was no surprise after he was awarded the Dutch Golden Shoe the previous campaign. In 1993 he added his first piece of silverware to his cabinet when the Dutch Cup was clinched after having been signed by Dutch legendary manager Louis van Gaal in 1992 from Eredivisie side Willem II.

After leaving Arsenal for Barca in 2000 for four years where he made nearly 100 games and scored on 15 occasions, he struggled to cement his place in the side during his time at the Nou Camp without securing even a single winners medal.  Once the 2003/04 season was complete Overmars announced his retirement from football due to a relentless knee injury.

However, four years later he came out of retirement after competing in Jaap Stam’s testimonial game. It was still evident though that Overmars had what it took to still be playing football and for only the 2008/09 season he turned out for Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles where he had started his career in 1990, before stopping for good due to a returning knee injury which had paused him in his tracks originally.

In an International career with The Netherlands spanning just over a decade from 1993 to 2004 he tallied up 86 games and 17 strikes on target. He competed in the two World Cups in 1994, 1998 and featured in that many number of Euros in 2000 and 2004. He impressed in his first international tournament and was handed the best young player of the 1994 World Cup.

Today Overmars is the 12th greatest Gunner in the opinion of Arsenal fans, what a whippersnapper of a winger he certainly was at Highbury.

Liam Harding

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1 Comment

  1. I am very upset that Marc Overmars is highlighted on this platform.

    He apparently behaved appallingly towards a female colleague while at Ajax.

    Shame on you Admin Pat!!!

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