Van Himst won the Belgian championship 8 times, all of them with Anderlecht, a club for which he started playing his first professional season in 1959-60. With Anderlecht, he scored 233 goals in 457 matches (16 seasons). He then played for RWDM (another Brussels club) in 1975-76 and for Eendracht Aalst (then in second division) in the following season.
Between 1960 and 1974, "Polle Gazon" scored 30 goals (in 81 matches) for the Belgian national team. This performance made him Belgium's topscorer-along with Bernard Voorhoof -- and the fifth most capped player for his country. He made his debut on 19 October 1960 in a match against Sweden and he was part of Belgium's team which qualified for the 1970 World Cup. Van Himst then helped Belgium reach third place at the Euro 1972. He also holds the record of Golden Shoe, awarded to him four times.
As a football manager, Van Himst has worked notably for Anderlecht and the national team which he led to the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was named the Golden Player of Belgium by the Belgian Football Association as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years.
He appeared in the 1981 film Escape to Victory, as Michel Fieu.
He is an ambassador for the Belgian/South-African NGO "Born In Africa" since 2005.