The latest entrant into the Football-Oranje hall of fame is Jaap Stam, one of the finest central defenders of his generation.

stam aStrong, quick, and skilled on the ball, Jaap Stam was an excellent defender, who represented some of the biggest clubs around Europe including Manchester United, PSV Eindhoven, Ajax, and AC Milan.

It all began for Stam at youth side DOS Kampen, before he moved to Eerste Divisie side Zwolle in 1992, making his professional debut for the club, against Heracles. After a year, with Zwolle, the 21 year old was snapped up by Eredivisie side Cambuur, where Stam was a first team regular.

After making 31 appearances in his first Eredivisie season, Stam could not stop Cambuur from being relegated to the Eerste Divisie, and after another season in the second division, a move to Willem II followed.

Willem II installed Stam straight into their first team, and after only half a season in Tilburg, PSV Eindhoven were impressed enough to sign the defender.

Stam helped PSV Eindhoven to the Eredivisie title in the 1996/97 season, while he also earned his first Netherlands cap in a 1-0 defeat to Germany, and was voted Dutch footballer of the year.

In 1998, Stam was a crucial part of the Netherlands side that reached the Semi-Finals of the World Cup in France, and also earned a move to English Premier League giants Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side made Stam the most expensive Dutchman ever by paying 10.6 million to PSV Eindhoven for his services. In his three years at the club, Stam became known as one of the best defenders in world football.

His first season, saw Manchester United win the treble, of the league, FA Cup, and Champions League, with Stam a rock in the defence in front of Peter Schmeichel.

Stam again reached the Semi-finals of a major tournament with Netherlands, this time the European Championships based in his own country, but missed a crucial penalty, as they lost to Italy.

After two more trophy laden season’s in Manchester, Stam was sold to Serie A side Lazio, after a falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson over his autobiography. In his book, Stam talked about how Ferguson had tapped him up at PSV, and encouraged his players to dive.

Ferguson also felt that Stam was not the same player after suffering an achilles injury, and called the defender into his office to tell him they had accepted a £15.3 million bid from Lazio. Stam had never wanted to leave the Premier League side, and was shocked at the clubs decision to sell him. Later on, Ferguson has admitted that selling Stam was one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made in his career.

At Lazio, Stam caused controversy by being banned for four months for having the banned steroid Nandralone in his system. He was unable to replicate his success with Manchester United in Lazio, and left for AC Milan after three seasons, winning only one Coppa Italia.

The 32 year old had now lost the amazing pace that had made him so hard to play against, and after the Euro 2004 championships, decided to retire from International football to concentrate on AC Milan.

The Dutchman was part of the AC Milan side that lost that famous Champions League final to Liverpool in Istanbul, and after 65 appearances for the club, returned to the Eredivisie with Ajax for €2.5 million.

Installed as team captain straight away, Stam helped the Amsterdam side win the KNVB Cup, and Johan Cruijff Schaal in his first year, but after only six appearances in the 07/08 season, he announced his retirement. His final game was an 0-0 draw with NEC Nijmegen on the 20th of October 2007.

Post career, Stam has recently joined Ajax as a coach, having also had a similar position at Zwolle, while he has also scouted for Manchester United.

A nightmare opponent for any striker, Jaap Stam was one of the finest central defenders of his generation, unbelievably quick for such a strong, and tall man, he was unique.

Part of three Netherlands squad’s that reached Semi finals of major tournaments, Stam was probably the last World Class defender, Netherlands have produced.Since then, the Oranje has struggled defensively, but hopefully now that Stam is coaching youngster’s at Ajax, he will be able to inspire the next generation.

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