OPPOSITION LEGEND FEATURE
OPPOSITION LEGEND FEATURE
His performances were mirrored by those for the national team, and he currently sits joint-third on the all-time goalscorers list for his country with 30 goals in 81 senior international appearances. Representing Belgium at the 1970 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico, only Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku have scored more goals for Belgium, but there is more to Van Himst than his impressive goal return.
But before we take a closer look at the success that Vam Himst enjoyed as the manager of both Anderlecht and Belgium, there is much more to reflect on from his playing career than just goals. Winning 14 major honours with Anderlecht, Van Himst also claimed the Belgian Golden Shoe award on a record four separate occasions with the club, with his fourth award arriving 14 years after first, such was his longevity at that level. UEFA recognised his achievements in 2004 by naming him Belgium's most outstanding player of the last 50 years, while he finished fourth in the 1965 Ballon d'Or vote. Van Himst was also named Belgium's Player of the Century in 1995.
It was only natural that Van Himst would manage Anderlecht after retirement and he took charge of the club in 1983. During the course of the next three years, the club would lift the Belgian league title and Super Cup as well as reaching the UEFA Cup final on two occasions, winning the trophy with a 2-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson's Benfica in his first season as manager. Making a similar impression as manager of Anderlecht to that of his playing career at the club, it wasn't long before the national team once again came calling, and after a spell at Molenbeek, Van Himst took charge of Belgium in 1991.
Joined by Cymru in qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Belgium would finish in second place to Romania in Group 4 which earned Van Himst's side automatic qualification for the finals that would take place in the United States. Drawn in Group F, victories over Morocco and the Netherlands ensured the side would progress to the knockout stages of the tournament, but a 3-2 defeat to Germany in Chicago brought their journey to an end. However, the side would miss out on a place at UEFA EURO 1996, and Van Himst left his post and never returned to the professional game.
During his playing career, Van Himst attracted plenty of interest, but remained in his native Belgium with his family despite receiving some tempting offers. “Real Madrid,” explained Van Himst in an interview with Belgian newspaper De Zondag in 2017. “They were looking for a playmaker when Di Stéfano left. I think I could have played football for them. That was times three or four in wages, I don't remember right. But although it was good, I wasn't interested. That might be different now.”