Replacing a goalkeeper like Edwin van der Sar is no easy feat. Yet, Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg has risen to the challenge and has respectfully gained Edwin’s former number one Dutch jersey.
But the 27-year-old may not just be satisfied with attaining van der Sar’s international place; reports are suggesting that Stekelenburg may soon be filling the gloves of his compatriot at club level with a move to Manchester United.
Stekelenburg took his place under van der Sar in the 2006 World Cup. He would, however, fail to dislodge the Dutch legend from his number one position until the Manchester United shot-stoppers retirement. In Euro 2008 he was selected again amongst the Dutch 23 and, thanks to the Dutch’s rip-roaring start to the campaign managed to get his first game in an international tournament in the final group match against Australia. Unfortunately, the deputizing ‘keeper was sent-off for fouling Australia’s Josh Kennedy.
Following van der Sar’s retirement, Stekelenburg became Bert van Marwijk’s first choice goalkeeper and the Ajax custodian has thanked his manager in kind with some terrific performances so far in the tournament, earning nominations from several pundits to take the Lev Yashin award.
These fine displays at international level have been preceded by an impressive year in the Dutch league. Stekelenburg managed to keep 20 clean sheets in 33 games last season – a firm reply to critics who had lamented the goalkeeper’s talents after a poor season in 2008-2009.
Manchester United may look to sign the keeper once his involvement in the World Cup comes to a close. The Manchester club recently sold Ben Foster in a deal with Birmingham and, in spite of Alex Ferguson’s insistence that the next goalkeeping talent will rise through the ranks of the youth system, rumours that the Scot may bring in someone to replace the English ‘keeper and van der Sar, as the Dutchman’s career comes to an end, are persistent. The manager will, however, have a hard time convincing current Ajax manager Martin Jol to release the shot-stopper.
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