Jaap Stam was one of the best centre backs in Europe for most of his career and now at the age of 41 he is helping the young players at Ajax.
The defenders at Ajax will benefit from his experience and they will surely improve under his guidance and will learn a lot from the centre back who had everything in his game. Stam was not only a solid defender, who won a lot in the air and was a great tackler, but he was also a great ball playing centre back.
Stam started his career at FC Zwolle in his native Holland and made his debut on the 15th August 1992 against Heracles in the second division and he remained first choice for the majority of the season and scored one goal in 32 league appearances. At the end of the season he joined Cambuur Leeuwarden who were playing in the top flight, however they only stayed there for one season and Stam was once again back in the second division. After one more season at the club and some impressive performances he got another move to the Eredivisie and signed for Willem II.
His time at Willem II was very short but he proved to be an effective player for them and after performing brilliantly in a 1-0 win over Ajax, PSV signed him and at the end of the season he picked up his first professional trophy after he helped them win the KNVB Cup. Stam was a key player during the 1996-97 season and played 33 times in the league and managed to get 7 goals which is impressive for a defender. At the end of the season PSV won the Eredivisie and was quickly establishing himself as one of the best centre backs in the world.
In 1998, Stam became the most expensive Dutch player when he moved to Manchester United for £10.6 million. He spent three years at Old Trafford and his consistent performances made him very popular with the Manchester United fans. He won many trophies during his time there, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League. However, early in the 2001-02 season Stam was controversially sold to Lazio after 80 Premier League appearances and single goal which came in a 6-2 away victory against Leicester City.
Alex Ferguson said on selling Stam. “We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5 million for a centre back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” This could have been a terrible decision by Ferguson but Stam had an indifferent time at Lazio and he was found guilty of using a banned steroid, however he recovered from this and helped the club win the Coppa Italia in his last season and after Euro 2004 he signed for AC Milan.
He spent two seasons at Milan and helped them reach the Champions League final in 2005 which they lost against Liverpool. He played 42 games in Serie A before returning to Holland and signed for Ajax where he was named club captain on his arrival. In his first season he won the KNVB Cup once more but he ended his career abruptly on the 29th October 2007 after playing in a 0-0 draw against N.E.C.
The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there. In playing terms it (selling him) was a mistake.”