There is an old stereotype for a goalkeeper: getting more charming as getting older. A goalkeeper will be even more mature if he already passed on the age of 30, even close to 40. However, Edwin Van der Sar slightly changed the old opinion: he was cool since he began his career. He started his career at a high level and ended it at a high level too.
If today’s football lovers are often provided by such a goalkeeper with qualified footwork like Ederson, Alisson, or Kepa. While if we trace who is one of the earliest goalkeepers with such attributes, we will find the name of Edwin Van der Sar.
Yep, Van der Sar grew up in the football environment of Ajax Amsterdam, a place that was influenced by the total football philosophy of Rinus Michel and Johan Cruyff who glorified the possession of a ball. Having been debuted in the 1990/91 season, Van Der Sar had no place for the following season. However, as soon as the main goalkeeper Stanley Mezzo showed his bad appearance, the young Van der Sar began to claim a place in 1992/93 season. Since then, he has always recorded more than 40 matches in every season.
The most phenomenal record, of course, was when he won the 1995 Champions League under Louis van Gaal’s coach, an incision that any Dutch club could not approach until now.
His career continued and Van der Sar was known as the world’s best goalkeeper. In 1999, he was nominated as the world’s best goalkeeper available in the transfer market. This moment happened at the same time with the moving decision of a legendary goalkeeper of the Manchester club. The great Peter Schmeichel was leaving his throne down at Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson thought that Van der Sar could replace him.
However, at that time United’s management had already guaranteed a contract with the mediocre goalkeeper named Mark Bosnich so that Ferguson’s interest on Van der Sar was forced to be postponed.
Meanwhile, Van der Sar chose to fly to Juventus. Moving to the Italian giant did not make him feel at home. His criteria did not match the Italian tactics which were more defensive. Coinciding with the arrival of a young goalkeeper named Gianluigi Buffon, he moved to Fulham’s mediocre club.
At this club, although he did not seek for a trophy, he also did not lose his skill. He maintained his place in the Dutch national team. In 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson did not waste another chance for knowing that Van der Sar was available in the transfer market. As Manchester United had not found a solid goalkeeper since 1999, they decided to not change their goalkeeper again until 2011 when Van der Sar joined the club.
Coming at the age of 35, the man who had earned the nickname of The Flying Dutchman was able to react to Schmeichel’s achievements. He had achieved three consecutive league awards, several times entered the Team of The Season, individual awards, as well as various records, including a league record for not being conceded in 1,311 minutes. However, the peak of his highest career is, of course, the 2008 Champions League final.
Even if Van der Sar had a weak spot, it was only that he rarely made a penalty save in a big game. During the match, he studied the behavior of the opponent instead of just relying on luck. When facing Nicolas Anelka in the penalty shootout, he played the opponent’s mind. He pointed to the left while he actually threw himself to the right. His hand brushed off the ball and the penalty failed. He punched the air as if he had conquered the demons.
He still added several trophies until he was 41 years old. It was too bad that he failed to lift the Champions League trophy (again) in his last game at Wembley in the 2011 Champions League final.
Two years before retiring, Sir Alex Ferguson had prepared the future keeper. The name of this expectant keeper is David De Gea.