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Ajax or Milan? For Van Basten, oldest loyalties win out

Former Dutch player Marco van Basten draws Germany during the draw of the Euro 2012 soccer championship at the Palace of Arts in Kiev Decemb
Former Dutch player Marco van Basten draws Germany during the draw of the Euro 2012 soccer championship at the Palace of Arts in Kiev Decemb

(Reuters) - Marco van Basten won European honors with Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan, but as both teams prepared to meet in the Champions League on Wednesday the former Dutch striker kept his loyalties close to home.

Van Basten hopes Frank de Boer's young Ajax side can go to Milan and claim the victory they need to progress to the knockout phase and eliminate Milan from this season's competition.

"I played for both clubs, and naturally I have a sympathy for both too. In the end I hope that the best footballing side wins," Van Basten, who played for Ajax between 1981-87, told Dutch radio on Tuesday as he looked ahead to the Group H game at the San Siro.

The 49-year-old, now coach of Heerenveen, added: "Are Ajax good enough to beat Milan? I'm not sure about that. But it would be nice if Ajax, with this young team they have, could go through.

"On the other hand, I also understand that the acumen of the Italians could be the ultimate factor that ensures they go through to the next round."

Milan have eight points going into the final group matches; Ajax are one point behind and must win at the San Siro to join group winners Barcelona in the Champions League knockout phase.

Van Basten scored a European Cup Winners' Cup final winner for Ajax against Lokomotive Leipzig in 1987 before moving to Milan, where he was in the Italian club's teams that won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Stephen Wood)

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