By Tony Attwood
Marc Overmars is one of those Arsenal players who to me seems to have been at the club much longer than just the three years he played for us. He was also one of the first players to move on to Barcelona from Arsenal and for Barcelona to find that they were spending a fortune but had missed the best of a player’s life.
His first main club was Go Ahead Eagles which he joined aged 14, before moving on to Willem II and then Ajax where under Louis van Gaal he won the European Cup in 1995. Arsène Wenger’ signed him in the summer transfer window in 1997 for £5.5 million.
I don’t think we had a vocal Anti-Arsenal Arsenal dominating the blogs at that time but if we had they would have protested like mad, for he had had a serious knee injury the year before.
But he won the Double in his (and Mr Wenger’s) first full season playing on the left wing using his great speed alongside Dennis Bergkamp’s power and insightfulness.
And then there was Old Trafford in March 1998 – scoring a goal you will often seen repeated as Man U were beaten 1-0. Overmars scores and then looks around as if to say “where are the rest of you?”
The game that won the league championship was no different. Roger and I were sitting in the North Bank and Overmars ran the show in the first half giving us what I took to be an unassailable lead. Roger was not so sure, but Overmars and the rest did not let us down.
After the Double the injuries returned and yet despite this Mr Wenger pulled off the amazing trick in 2000 of selling a clearly injury prone player to Barcelona for something like five times what we paid for him.
Here’s his record…
At €40.6 million he was the most expensive Dutch player of all time and yes Barce did get almost 100 games out of him, but few were of the style and quality that he had shown for Arsenal. Including wages he cost Barcelona around £4,000,000 a game.
Not only was it an expensive deal for Barcelona it was also a trophy-less journey for Overmars. On 26 July 2004 he retired from football and became technical director of Go Ahead Eagles.
Then on 26 July 2008, during the Jaap Stam testimonial Overmars showed he still had his talent and on 10 August 2008 he came out of retirement to play one more season. He later moved on to be director of football at AFC Ajax.
Then on February 28 2013 the London Evening Standard reported that Marc Overmars would be happy to return to Arsenal as part of the club’s backroom staff. He is reported as saying, “The way I work with Ajax, I do the transfers, the contracts and organise the scouting, so it suits me. It wouldn’t surprise me if I work in the future at Arsenal — it could be a possibility.
“I’ve never discussed it with Arsene Wenger. But if the board think about the future and make a list of people to work at the club, it wouldn’t surprise me if I am on the list of people.”
He also said, “I went back to Highbury to look around that area and still felt such a power there. When we were playing at home, we were unbeatable. That’s how we felt. But that’s the problem with a bigger stadium, often you lose that aura.
“It used to be intimidating at Highbury — that is the difference between the new stadium and the old one. When you build a new stadium, you must try to get the people as close as possible to the pitch.
“I was playing with Ajax in the old stadium and then the new stadium and we had the same problem. All the opponents wanted to play in this nice stadium so you lose that home advantage. They should have used more things from the old stadium in the new one.”