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Ones That Got Away: Jaap Stam

Jakob Stam, best known as Jaap Stam was born in Kampen, Overijssel in the Netherlands on the 17th July 1972. The Dutch international signed for Manchester United back in 1998 for £10.6 million, from former club PSV Eindhoven, a club United have done a lot of business with in the past, the most recent signing to come from the club was Memphis Depay in the summer of 2015. During his time playing for PSV in his native Holland, Stam had tasted glory by winning the Eredivisie, the KNVB Cup and the Johan Cryuff Shield twice. Moving to United was only going to continue his glory. Stam signed for United during the summer of 1998, the season United went on to win that illustrious treble, Stam being intrinsic to that feat with his calmness in defence, his ability on the ball and his determination to win.

Stam was one of the best defenders at the club, winning the Premier League three times, during all three of the season’s he played at the club, also winning the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League during the treble-winning season, adding the Intercontinental Cup later in 1999 – his third trophy at the club at the time – his sixth trophy at the club. Stam, despite being a great player, was sold to Lazio for £15.3 million, nearly £5 million in profit from his signing for United three years previous, in what was a shock to many United supporters. A disagreement with manager Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to end his time at United, something that affected the club going forward for a season or so, with Rio Ferdinand being his replacement almost a year later, something which worked for Ferguson and Manchester United, bringing a player who dominated in United’s defence for over a decade – partnering with Nemanja Vidic for much of that spell at the club.

Stam was a still a great player at the time he was sold by Ferguson, still had years left at the top of his game, and could have helped United dominate a lot more if he had remained at the club. United did need to rebuild their side after their treble heroics, but the way Stam left the club was a massive shock, but something Ferguson did based on comments made in the player’s autobiography. During his time at Lazio, Stam was banned for five months after having traces of nandrolone after a drug test following a Serie A match, which was then reduced to four months after a semi-successful appeal. With Lazio, Stam won the Coppa Italia. He left Lazio for AC Milan in 2004, staying in the Serie A continuing his success by lifting the Supercoppa Italiana. Stam left Milan for the Netherlands in 2006, ending his playing career ar Ajax.

At Ajax, Stam only played on for one more year, winning the KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruyff Shield twice. His total trophy haul during his career amounted to 15 trophies. Stam played for the Netherlands 67 times, scoring three goals for his country. Although he did not win any trophies at international level, Stam did help his side to a fourth-placed finish in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, which was a great achievement. After retiring as a player, Stam took some time out of the game before becoming interim manager at FC Zwolle in the Netherlands in 2009, then becoming the assistant manager in 2011, leaving in 2013. Stam then became an assistant with Ajax, the last club he played for, which lasted for three years, leaving in 2016 for a position in the Ajax Academy, leaving that role in 2016 to become the permanent manager of Championship club Reading.

Reading are doing well in the Championship this season, currently in third place in the league after 19 matches, five points adrift of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion. Stam seems to be cutting his teeth in management in a tough league, with a club who have a history of playing in the Premier League, and a history of challenging for promotion recently. This season, should he achieve a Premier League promotion, he will be seen as a successful manager, one who started his management career at an early age, being that he is only 44 at this moment in time. In the Emirates FA Cup this season, Stam will lead his Reading side out against his former club, Manchester United, at Old Trafford in a match to be played in early January, the biggest match of his management career so far.

Stam holds no grudges about his time at United, and neither should he after winning six trophies at the club, the most successful time of his career. Being able to return to the club he loves will be a great feeling for him, but he has donned the famous Manchester United shirt playing for the Legends side over the past few years, also playing in Soccer Aid, which is played at Old Trafford. Stam will get a bright reception at the club, the fans will end up singing his name from the stands and maybe even wonder what could have happened had he not been forced out of the club by Sir Alex Ferguson all those years ago. Stam will hope to speak to his former gaffer ahead of his visit to the Theatre of Dreams next year, maybe hoping to find out some secrets, or just some guidance for his career, which would be fitting from one of the most successful managers in footballing history.

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