Ones That Got Away: Jaap Stam – one of the best defenders on his day

A classy defender and a leader - it was a shame that he upset the gaffer and had to leave

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 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.

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. Stam spoke about the bust up with Sir Alex Ferguson, which led to his departure.

“The book got serialised in the week of an England-Holland friendly [August 2001]. Initially, Ferguson had told me not to worry about it, but on Wednesday – the morning of the match – I was informed that I should report for talks with him the next day, because he wasn’t happy about some of it.

“After the game, I went home and reported the next morning at 8am, because I was keen to resolve the matter. I said, “You know what’s in the book – nothing bad.” But he maintained that he wasn’t happy.

“A week later, I was left out for a game against Blackburn. On the day, he called me to say I wasn’t in his squad because of the book hassle.

“He felt it might calm down if I wasn’t playing. We had a few conversations, although none of them were really satisfactory.

“A bit later that week, I was driving home from training when my agent phoned, telling me I’d been sold. I was like, “What?!” He said, “Yeah, they’ll contact you in a minute.” Moments later, Ferguson called me and asked where I was.

“We lived in the same area, and he told me to wait for him so that we could have a chat. I pulled into a petrol station near a shopping centre and he met me there.

“When he arrived, he got in my car and told me that the club had accepted an offer from Lazio. He said that he wanted to continue with two other defenders, Wes Brown and Laurent Blanc, which meant I’d be on the bench.

“I felt I’d be able to regain my place eventually, but in that short amount of time, our relationship was impacted in such a way that I felt as though I wanted to leave. I think he anticipated it. Within 24 hours, I’d gone to Rome and joined Lazio.”

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 United – partnering well with Nemanja Vidić.

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.

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.

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 PEC 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.

Stam managed the Berkshire club until the 21 March 2018 when it was announced that he had left the club after the clubs poor form.

In the Emirates FA Cup during the 2016/17 season, Stam led his Reading side out against his former club at Old Trafford but he saw his side beaten 4-0 with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial scoring a goal each and Marcus Rashford scoring a brace. 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.

After Reading, Stam returned to Zwolle on the 28 December 2018 but left to manage PSV in March 2019. Stam resigned in October 2019, saying:

“I’ve thought about this for a long time. My final conclusion is that it’s better for the club, the players and myself if I step aside.”

In May 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Stam returned to management, becoming the FC Cincinnati head coach in the MLS in the United States of America. Stam led his side into the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Florida.

In September 2021, Stam was sacked by FC Cincinnati having won just four of 25 matches that season. That looked to be the end of his management career, at least for the time being, which was a shame. Stam was a great player but perhaps he needs more in his locker as a manager.

During his playing career Stam won one Eredivisie, two KNVB Cups, four Johan Cruyff Shields, three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one UEFA Champions League, One Intercontinental Cup, one Coppa Italia and one Supercoppa Italiana – a good haul of trophies for a career.

Written by John Walker

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About John Walker 1822 Articles
I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.

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