Former Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg has been enjoying a career revival at Everton. The Merseyside team currently sits fifth in the table and boasts an impressive second best defence in the league, conceding 5 in 7 matches. Stekelenburg, who was brought to the club by fellow Dutchman Ronald Koeman this summer, was interviewed by the club’s magazine and everonfc.com before their fixture with Crystal Palace.
In the interview, Stekelenburg recalls that his biggest idol was Edwin van der Sar, the legendary goalkeeper who won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995. “The first time I met him, I was a ballboy around the pitch. I always made sure I was stood behind his goal – and then I would follow him around and change sides in the second half. But most of the time nothing happened at that area of the pitch because Ajax were scoring goals at the other end,” he remembers. He also adds that eventhough van der Sar left for Juventus before he could meet him in the first team, the two goalies eventually met in the national team, which was a great experience.
Interesting point that Maarten makes about his career is that he eventually wasn’t placed between the posts at all. “I was an outfield player and all of a sudden the goalkeeper from my team left,” he recalls. He moved to the goal for VV Schoten at the advice of his teammate, eventhough he originally didn’t want to. He excelled in the goal, eventually catching the eye of Ajax scouts, moving to the team and making his senior debut at 19 years of age.
Stekelenburg recalls winning two league titles with Ajax, the latter of which came after a 7 year wait and was the 30th title in Ajax’s history. The goalkeeper says he was injured for a part of the season, including the final title deciding match against Twente. “I was so nervous because I was in the stands, definitely more nervous than if I had been playing,” he describes his feeling prior to the 3-1 victory that clinched Ajax the league winners’ trophy.
“Ajax was my home. It was nice and convenient but as you go abroad, you get different situations,” Maarten says about a turbulent period that followed his transfer from Ajax after the 2010-11 season. Despite starting for Roma under Luis Enrique, he wasn’t fancied much by his successor Zdeněk Zeman and moved on to Fulham. Martin Jol, who knew him from Ajax, started him, and so did Rene Meulensteen, but Felix Magath took a completely different approach. Stekelenburg ended up without a squad number and sent on loan to Monaco, where he served as an understudy to Danijel Subašič and started in cup games.
Stekelenburg’s career was finally revived with the help of the man under whose guidance he won the first Eredivisie title in 2004 – Ronald Koeman. With Fraser Forster facing a long term injury, Koeman brought Stekelenburg to Southampton on loan, and eventually took him to Everton on a permanent transfer from Fulham. The big goalkeeper, who signed a three year deal with the club, has so far played every competitive match in the Toffees shirt this season.
The Haarlem native, who recently made his first national team appearance in four years, believes that the best years of his idol van der Sar came in his final seasons, as the legendary goalkeeper moved away from Fulham (coincidentally) to Manchester United at the age of 35. At 34, Stekelenburg most certainly hopes to prove that he also still has his best years ahead of him, and to help take Everton to glory.