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EXCLUSIVE: Pittodrie great Hans Gillhaus reveals how Aberdeen saved his World Cup dream

Aberdeen legend Hans Gillhaus celebrates scoring in the 1989-90 season.
Aberdeen legend Hans Gillhaus celebrates scoring in the 1989-90 season.

Legendary Dutch striker Hans Gillhaus insists signing for Aberdeen resurrected his World Cup 1990 dream.

The Dons splashed out a then club record £650,000 fee to sign Gillhaus from PSV Eindhoven in November 1989.

Gillhaus had won the European Cup with PSV the season before moving to Pittodrie.

Securing the Dutch striker was a major coup and statement of intent by an ambitious Aberdeen side.

Gillhaus transferred to Aberdeen as he was being kept out of the PSV team by recent signing Romario, the Brazilian legend.

Prior to signing for the Reds, Gillhaus had been capped twice with his last international appearance in December 1987.

Just eight months after joining Aberdeen the attacker started against England in the World Cup.

Gillhaus reckons switching to Pittodrie led to playing in the 1990 World Cup in an attack with Ballon d’Or winners Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.

Aberdeen legend Hans Gillhaus lit up Scottish football following his £650,000 transfer from PSV Eindhoven.

Gillhaus, 58, said: “Signing for Aberdeen helped my World Cup bid tremendously.

“I was at Pittodrie for little more than half a year and then I was playing at the World Cup.

“I left PSV in order to get playing time.

“My performances at Aberdeen got me into the international squad again.

“I had been in the international squad before but the generation of strikers ahead of me were world-class.

“We had Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Wim Kieft up front so it was always difficult to get into the squad.

“Thankfully after moving to Aberdeen I played a few games at the World Cup.”

Aberdeen legends Theo Snelders, Alex McLeish and Hans Gillhaus with the Scottish Cup in 1990.

The magnitude of signing Gillhaus

For perspective of Gillhaus’ quality and the magnitude of Aberdeen’s signing he was secured by PSV to replace Ruud Gullit.

Dutch striker Gullit had been sold by PSV to AC Milan for a world-record transfer fee.

In the season before signing for Aberdeen Gillhaus had won the treble adding the Dutch league title and cup to the European Cup.

One of the most talented players to ever pull on an Aberdeen shirt Gillhaus played 111 times for the Dons, scoring 39 times.

Upon arriving at Pittodrie he made a sensational and immediate impact with two goals on his debut against Dunfermline.

The first goal on a memorable debut was an audacious over-head kick after just 12 minutes.

A few minutes later he scored with a header to make it 2-0.

Hans Gillhaus scored a last-minute winner against Rangers at Pittodrie in 1989.

Just four days later Gillhaus announced himself to the home support with a superb 20-yard winning goal against Rangers at Pittodrie.

It was an explosive start to his Pittodrie career that would see the attacker end the season with a Scottish Cup winner’s medal.

He netted a spot-kick in the 9-8 penalty shoot-out defeat of Celtic at Hampden to help the Dons lift the trophy.

It remains the last time Aberdeen won the Scottish Cup.

Aberdeen form leads to World Cup

Following that impressive debut season at Pittodrie Netherlands coach Leo Beenhakker selected Gillhaus for the World Cup squad.

His previous two caps had come against Greece and Cyprus.

Now an Aberdeen player was starring on the world’s biggest stage for one of the tournament favourites.

Gillhaus sat out the opening Group F game, a 1-1 draw with Egypt.

However he was drafted into the starting line-up for the next match, a goalless draw with England.

He retained that starting slot for the next fixture, a 1-1 draw with Republic of Ireland which was enough to qualify from the group.

In attack with Balon d’Or winners

In those games he played in an attack that also comprised three time Ballon d’Or winner van Basten and Gullit who had won that award once.

Such was the potency of that Dutch attack van Basten (88, 89) and Gullit (87) had won the Ballon d’Or in each of the three years leading up to the World Cup.

They were joined by an Aberdeen player in the Dutch attack.

Halcyon days for the Dons that seem light years away now.

Aberdeen’s Hans Gillhaus (left) sees his shot beat Dundee United goalkeeper Alan Main for the fourth goal in the 1990 Scottish Cup semi-final.

Gillhaus said: “We had the potential to win the World Cup in 1990 and were among the favourites.

“That’s how we went into the World Cup because two years before that they won the European championships.

“Everything was set up for the World Cup.

“At club level there is the European Cup (Champions League) and at national level it is playing at the World Cup.

“They are the biggest tournaments. So for me it was very special that I started two games at the World Cup.

“We came out of the group which was good and I had played a part in that.

“They are very good memories for me.”

Aberdeen’s Hans Gillhaus (left) jumps for the ball with Billy McKinlay in the 4-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat of Dundee United in 1990.

Knocked out by eventual winners

With three draws Netherlands progressed to the knock-out stages to face West Germany in the last 16 at the San Siro, Milan.

They exited 2-1 to the eventual World Cup winners.

Gillhaus was introduced as a substitute in the 79th minute for Richard Witschge against West Germany.

He said: “Playing in the World Cup was a career highlight.

“Even though we didn’t do as well as we wanted to.

“It was great to play in a World Cup in Italy, which is a real football nation.

“It is probably less painful to go out of the World Cup to a team that actually went on to win the tournament.

“We went out against the eventual world champions and that can happen.”