"I would rate Van Basten as a 9.5 tonight but only because I don't think perfection exists." Fabio Capello
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Every good book should have a memorable opening line and Marco van Basten provided it for the inaugural UEFA Champions League group stage. Swedish titleholders IFK Göteborg resisted until just after the half-hour mark, but once an unbalanced Van Basten had somehow squeezed the opening goal in with his left foot they were merely privileged spectators in a remarkable one-man show.
A recurrent ankle injury meant this season would prove the Dutch international's last and, a month after his 28th birthday, he left an unforgettable calling card. It brought some reward for Fabio Capello's attacking intentions – he fielded forward Daniele Massaro at left-back in place of the injured Paolo Maldini – but in the initial stages the ploy had threatened to backfire as Peter Eriksson twice went close.
Yet with Gianluigi Lentini and Stefano Eranio busy on the flanks the Rossoneri took control and almost forged ahead when Jean-Pierre Papin rifled a shot against the upright from distance. Three minutes later the France striker turned provider, teeing up Van Basten to break the deadlock and from then on it was all the hosts. And Van Basten.
The mercurial No9 doubled the advantage from the penalty spot soon after half-time before sending an acrobatic bicycle kick into the bottom left corner. Within 60 seconds it was 4-0 as Van Basten burst through the heart of a beleaguered IFK back line, took the ball past Thomas Ravelli with his right foot before finishing with his left.
Ravelli was remonstrating with his defence before the ball had hit the back of the net, but sometimes there is simply nothing you can do. Even Capello, not renowned for the generosity of his compliments, was humbled. "I would rate Van Basten as a 9.5 tonight," he said, "but only because I don't think perfection exists."