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Edwin van der Sar

Edwin van der Sar

Edwin van der Sar OON (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛtʋɪn vɑn dɛr ˈsɑr] (listen)) (born 29 October 1970) is a Dutch former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. During his career he played for Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United. He is the second most capped player in the Netherlands national team's history. He is considered, by critics and fellow players, as one of the best goalkeepers of all time.[6][7] He currently works as the chief executive officer at Ajax.[8] In 2016, he briefly came out of retirement to play a match for Dutch amateur team VV Noordwijk.

He started his senior career at Ajax and is considered to be a member of a golden generation of players at the club. He remained there for nine years before moving to Italian club Juventus and then to England, first to Fulham and then to Manchester United. He is one of the few footballers to have won the UEFA Champions League with two different teams – with Ajax in 1995 and Manchester United in 2008; in the latter, he was also named UEFA Man of the Match. Van der Sar also won the UEFA Cup with Ajax in 1992.

Van der Sar is one of the most decorated and successful footballers ever, having won 27 major trophies in his career, mainly at Ajax and Manchester United.[9] Van der Sar also set numerous records in his career. In the 2008–09 season he set the world league clean sheet record by not conceding a single goal for 1,311 minutes.[10] Until 2017 he was the most capped player for the Netherlands national team, with 130 caps, until Wesley Sneijder surpassed him. He is also the oldest player to win the Premier League, at 40 years and 205 days old. Van der Sar has won several individual awards, including Best European Goalkeeper in 1995 and 2009, and UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009.

Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar 2015.jpg
Van der Sar at the 2015 Web Summit, Dublin
Personal information
Full nameEdwin van der Sar[2]
Date of birth(1970-10-29)29 October 1970[3]
Place of birthVoorhout, Netherlands[4]
Height1.97 m (6 ft512 in)[5]
Playing positionGoalkeeper
Club information
Current team
Ajax (CEO)
Youth career
1985–1990VV Noordwijk
Senior career*
2005–2011Manchester United186(0)
2016VV Noordwijk1(0)
National team
  • Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Club career


Born in Voorhout, Van der Sar began his career at his hometown club, Foreholte, and then VV Noordwijk. At a relatively late age, he was brought to the attention of Louis van Gaal, and subsequently signed for Ajax. Even though he joined late he went into the reserve team and bided his time before getting his first-team call-up by Louis van Gaal. He enjoyed a long and successful stint in their senior side, winning the 1991–92 UEFA Cup (albeit only as the reserve, making no appearances in the run) and the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League (by now the starting goalkeeper), as well as the 1995 Best European Goalkeeper award, besides domestic honours. He was in goal for Ajax in the 1996 UEFA Champions League Final, but had to make do with a runner-up medal as they lost the penalty shoot-out against Juventus. He made a total of 226 appearances for Ajax, and scored a penalty for Ajax to complete an 8–1 victory over De Graafschap in the 1997–98 season. In his first full season as Ajax No. 1 he won the Dutch Football Goalkeeper of the Year, he would then go on to retain the award for the next 3 consecutive years.


In 1999, Van der Sar's stature as one of Europe's top goalkeepers drew attention from Manchester United, who sought a replacement for Peter Schmeichel; however, Van der Sar moved to Italian club Juventus for a fee believed to be in the region of £5 million. He made his debut for The Old Lady in the 1–1 draw with Reggina at the Stadio Delle Alpi.[11] He became the first non-Italian to keep goal for the Turin club.[12]

He was the first-choice goalkeeper during his first two seasons in Italy, making 66 Serie A appearances as Juventus finished runners-up in the league twice under Carlo Ancelotti. On the final day of the 1999–2000 season, Juventus lost to Perugia Calcio, allowing Lazio to win the title. The following season, Van der Sar helped Juventus finish 2 points behind eventual champions A.S. Roma.

Van der Sar lost his place in the summer of 2001, after the Bianconeri purchased Italian international goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from Parma for 100 billion lire (approximately £32.6 million), a world-record fee for a goalkeeper. Unwilling to remain as second-choice behind Buffon, Van der Sar made it clear he wished to move on after two years in Serie A.[13]


On 1 August 2001, Van der Sar opted to play in England and joined newly promoted Fulham in a shock move worth £7.0 million, signing a four-year contract.[14][15] The following day, Van der Sar was officially unveiled by Fulham, and upon his arrival, he described the move as a "nice friendly atmosphere" and that he felt "appreciated".[16] He made his league debut on 18 August 2001 in a 2–3 away defeat against Manchester United.[17] In total, he notched up 127 league appearances while at Fulham. In a game against Aston Villa in his final season at the club he memorably saved two penalties from Juan Pablo Angel in a 1–1 draw.[18] His performances for the Cottagers caught the eye of Manchester United and the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson.[19][20]

Manchester United

Van der Sar signed for Manchester United on 10 June 2005[21] for a reported fee of £2 million, although the exact transfer fee was undisclosed.[22] Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson considers him the best goalkeeper to have played for the club since Peter Schmeichel.[23]

On 5 May 2007, his penalty save from Darius Vassell helped assure a 1–0 triumph over Manchester City in the Manchester derby. The following day, Chelsea's failure to beat Arsenal at the Emirates ensured Manchester United's ninth Premier League trophy and Van der Sar's first. He was also named in the 2006–07 PFA Team of the Year.[24] Three months later, he was a catalyst in Manchester United's 16th FA Community Shield victory, as he saved three consecutive penalties in a shoot-out after Manchester United and Chelsea played to a 1–1 draw at the end of regular time.[25]

The 2007–08 season was Van der Sar's best season since his arrival; he had several great performances despite a niggling groin injury. He would help United secure their second successive Premier League title on the final day and win the Champions League by saving the final penalty of the shoot-out from Nicolas Anelka.[26]

Van der Sar signed a one-year extension to his current contract with Manchester United on 12 December 2008, keeping him at the club until at least the end of the 2009–10 season.[27]

On 27 January 2009, Van der Sar helped Manchester United set a new club and Premier League record for consecutive clean sheets – the club's 5–0 win over West Bromwich Albion meant that they had gone 11 games and 1,032 minutes without conceding a goal, beating the previous record of 10 matches and 1,025 minutes set by Petr Čech in the 2004–05 season. He then broke the overall English league record in the club's following game four days later, beating the previous record of 1,103 minutes, set by Steve Death of Reading in 1979.[28] Another clean sheet, against West Ham on 8 February 2009, extended the record to 1,212 minutes, beating the British top-flight record of 1,155 minutes previously set by Aberdeen's Bobby Clark in 1971.[29] Finally, on 18 February 2009, Van der Sar further extended the record to 1,302 minutes, and in doing so, he broke José María Buljubasich's single-season world record of 1,289 minutes, set in the Chilean Clausura in 2005.[30][31] His clean sheet record ended on 4 March, when he made an error allowing Peter Løvenkrands of Newcastle United to score after 9 minutes.[32] In total, Van der Sar had gone 1,311 minutes without conceding in the league.[26] These clean sheets were a major factor in United clinching their 11th Premiership title as United won a lot of games 1–0 to clinch the title ahead of Liverpool. With a total of 21 clean sheets he also won the Barclays Golden Glove for 2008–09.[33][34] However, he missed out on winning his third Champions League winners medal as United succumbed to a 2–0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona on 27 May 2009. Nevertheless, he won Best European Goalkeeper award from UEFA for the second time, 14 years after he first won it at Ajax. He was one of the five United players shortlisted for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award but it went to United teammate Ryan Giggs instead, however he was included into the PFA Team of the Year.[35]

Van der Sar sustained a finger injury during the Audi Cup pre-season tournament, forcing him to miss the first 12 matches of Manchester United's 2009–10 season.[36] On 6 October 2009, Van der Sar returned to action for United, playing 90 minutes in the reserves against Everton.[37] On 17 October 2009, he returned to action in the first team, playing in United's 2–1 victory over Bolton Wanderers.[38] On 21 November 2009, Van der Sar would suffer injury again and be kept out of action for 12 games, with the combination of the Dutchman's wife suffering a brain haemorrhage just before Christmas. On 16 January 2010, Van der Sar returned to action in a 3–0 win over Burnley.[39]

Van der Sar signed a one-year extension to his current contract with Manchester United on 26 February 2010, keeping him at the club until at least the end of the 2010–11 season.[40]

On 23 December 2010, British press reported that Sir Alex Ferguson had confirmed Van der Sar would retire at the end of the 2010–11 Premier League season.[41] Although he denied the reports at the time,[41] Van der Sar confirmed on 27 January 2011 it now was his intention.[42] On 12 March, Van der Sar was named Man of the Match against Arsenal in the FA Cup after making several fine saves. United won the match 2–0 with goals from Wayne Rooney and Fábio. He was included in the PFA Team of the Year, making his third appearance there, others in 2007 and 2008.

On 22 May 2011, he played his final game at Old Trafford in a 4–2 victory over Blackpool resulting in Blackpool's relegation from the Premier League. He captained United as a farewell treat. His last game for United was against Barcelona in the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final, which United lost 3–1.

On 28 May 2011, Van der Sar retired from active football.[43]

VV Noordwijk

On 12 March 2016, Van der Sar made a brief return to football to play 'one last game', for VV Noordwijk after first-choice goalkeeper Mustafa Amezrine picked up an injury. Van der Sar saved a penalty but conceded a goal in the match as they drew 1–1 with Jodan Boys.[44][45]

International career

Van der Sar was included in the Netherlands' 1994 World Cup squad but did not play. He had to wait until 7 June 1995 for his international debut, against Belarus. He was in goal for three successive eliminations from major competitions by penalties: Euro 96, the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. The Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup after competing with Portugal and the Republic of Ireland and so during all of his career with the Netherlands, he had missed one tournament.

1998 World Cup

Van der Sar backstopped the Netherlands to the semi-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, where they were eliminated by Brazil 4–2 on penalties after a 1–1 draw. In the third-place playoff, Netherlands lost to upstart Croatia 2–1.

In the quarter-finals against Argentina, Van der Sar confronted Ariel Ortega after Ortega received a yellow card for a dive in the penalty area; the Argentine was then sent off for headbutting Van der Sar. Shortly after Ortega's red card, Dennis Bergkamp scored the winning goal in Netherlands' 2–1 victory.

Euro 2000

Van der Sar started the Netherlands' first two group games at UEFA Euro 2000, but suffered an injury in the closing stages of their 3–0 win over Denmark and was replaced by Sander Westerveld for the final group match against France. Van der Sar returned for the quarter-finals, but was again replaced by Westerveld after 65 minutes, by which point the Netherlands had a 4–0 lead. Van der Sar kept another clean sheet in the semi-final against Italy, resulting in a goalless draw after Frank de Boer and Patrick Kluivert both failed to score from the penalty spot in regulation time. The match went to a penalty shoot-out, and although Van der Sar saved the effort from Italy captain Paolo Maldini, the Netherlands scored just one of their four kicks and lost 3–1. Van der Sar finished the tournament without conceding a single goal, but was left out of the Team of the Tournament in favour of France's Fabien Barthez and Italy's Francesco Toldo.[46]

Euro 2004

During the penalty shoot-out after the Euro 2004 quarter-final against Sweden, Van der Sar saved a penalty from Olof Mellberg, as the Netherlands won the shoot-out 5–4 and advanced to the semi-finals,[47] where they lost to Portugal.[48]

2006 World Cup

Prior to the 2006 World Cup group match against Côte d'Ivoire, Van der Sar had not conceded a goal in nine consecutive competitive matches.[49] As captain of the Netherlands, he broke Frank de Boer's record of all-time caps for his country in the 2006 World Cup second-round match against Portugal.[50]

Euro 2008

On his 37th birthday, Van der Sar was interviewed by Radio 538 and stated that he intended to retire from international football after Euro 2008.[51] Prior to the tournament, he was instrumental in bringing an end to a long-time dispute between veteran striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and manager Marco van Basten.[52] He was the captain in their impressive 3–0 victory over Italy on 9 June 2008, and also on 13 June for the 4–1 victory over France. On 21 June, he played in the 3–1 quarter-final loss against Russia, which was believed to be his final international.[53] This was his 16th appearance in a European Championship finals match, with which he equalled the record set by Lilian Thuram a few days earlier. Along with 22 other players Van der Sar was named in the team of the tournament.[26] Following Euro 2008, Van der Sar had the distinction of playing more minutes at the European Football Championship than any other player.[54]

2010 FIFA World Cup qualification

On 3 October 2008, at the urging of new coach Bert van Marwijk, Van der Sar agreed to come out of international retirement for the Netherlands' 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification matches against Iceland and Norway after injuries to Maarten Stekelenburg and Henk Timmer made both unavailable for the two games.[55] Van der Sar kept a clean sheet in both matches, which were won by the Dutch 2–0 and 1–0 respectively. In Oslo, the Dutch defeated Norway 1–0 courtesy of a Mark van Bommel goal, thus ensuring a fitting send-off for Van der Sar who earned his 130th cap during that match, a record for a Dutch player, and put him in the top forty most capped players of all time.[56] He remained the Dutch team's most capped player until Wesley Sneijder surpassed him in 2017.[57]

Style of play

I do not think I was the main protagonist. One of the very first to have brought a new perspective was Edwin Van der Sar, who played a lot with his feet and allowed the position to enter a new phase. I was inspired by his style of play. German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has praised Van der Sar for being among the first to bring a new perspective to goalkeeping[58]

Regarded as one of the greatest and most complete keepers in football history,[6][7] Van der Sar was a large, athletic, yet slender goalkeeper, who excelled at coming off his line to handle crosses due to his height and physique; an intelligent goalkeeper, in addition to his reflexes, excellent positional sense, and shot-stopping abilities, he was also known for his calm composure, longevity, and his ability to organise his defence.[7][59][60][61][62][63] Furthermore, he was also effective at stopping penalties.[64][65][66][67] However, Van der Sar was known in particular for his skill with the ball at his feet, as well as his accurate distribution with either foot, which gave him the ability to launch counter-attacks from his area with long balls.[59][60][61][68] Due to his ability in possession of the ball, and to rush off his line, he also functioned as a "sweeper-keeper" on occasion throughout his career, in particular during his time with Ajax.[61][69]

Personal life

Van der Sar and his wife Annemarie van Kesteren have two children.[70] The couple's wedding ceremony took place at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, on 20 May 2006.[71] Van der Sar's son, Joe, was on the pitch celebrating when his father saved a penalty in the Netherlands' 5–4 shoot-out victory over Sweden in the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2004.[70] In December 2009, Van Kesteren was admitted to the hospital just two days before Christmas,[72] reports said she had suffered a suspected brain haemorrhage and was in a "very poor" condition.[73] Van der Sar was granted indefinite leave following his wife's collapse, and it is understood that she has made a good recovery, with no long-term effects.[74]

Career statistics


ClubSeasonLeagueCupLeague CupEuropeOther[1]Total
Juventus1999–2000Serie A3203011000460
Fulham2001–02Premier League37040000000410
Manchester United2005–06Premier League38020308000510
Career total60615606013901408211

Statistics accurate as of match played 12 March 2016[75]


Netherlands senior team

Honours and awards



  • Eredivisie: 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1997–98

  • KNVB Cup: 1992–93, 1997–98, 1998–99

  • Dutch Supercup: 1993, 1994, 1995

  • UEFA Champions League: 1994–95

  • UEFA Cup: 1991–92

  • UEFA Super Cup: 1995

  • Intercontinental Cup: 1995


  • UEFA Intertoto Cup: 1999


  • UEFA Intertoto Cup: 2002

Manchester United[78]


  • Dutch Football Goalkeeper of the Year: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997

  • Best European Goalkeeper: 1995, 2009[80]

  • ESM Team of the Year: 1995–96, 2008–09

  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1998 (Reserve)[81]

  • Dutch Golden Shoe: 1998

  • IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: Bronze ball 1998,[82] 2008[83]

  • FIFA FIFPro World XI Nominee: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011[84]

  • PFA Premier League Team of the Year: 2006–07,[85] 2008–09,[86] 2010–11[87]

  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 2008[80]

  • Premier League Merit Award: 2008–09

  • Premier League Golden Glove: 2008–09[33][34]

  • UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year: 2009

Non-football-related awards

  • Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau: 5 June 2010

  • JFK Greatest Man Award: 29 October 2011[88]


  • Oldest player to win the Premier League (40 years and 205 days)

  • Oldest goalkeeper to win the UEFA Champions League (37 years 205 days)[89]

  • World record for most minutes without conceding a league goal (1,311 minutes, set in 2008–09 Premier League)

  • First non-British player to be active in the Premier League beyond the age of 40[90]

  • First goalkeeper to keep 50 clean sheets in the UEFA Champions League

  • Most clean sheets at the UEFA European Championship: 9 (alongside Iker Casillas)

Post-playing career

On 3 August 2011, a testimonial was played at the Amsterdam Arena in honour of Van der Sar. The match featured the goalkeeper's "dream team", consisting of Wayne Rooney, John Heitinga, Louis Saha, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidić, André Ooijer, Dirk Kuyt, Gary Neville, Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Boudewijn Zenden and Dennis Bergkamp with Alex Ferguson as manager. They faced the current Ajax first team, led by Frank de Boer.

Prior to this match two shorter matches took place. One featured the Ajax and Manchester United youth teams, and another one featured Ajax's 1995 squad against the Netherlands national team of 1998. The Ajax squad featured among others Finidi George, Nwankwo Kanu, Frank de Boer, Winston Bogarde, Nordin Wooter, Ronald de Boer, Danny Blind, Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars and Frank Rijkaard with it being managed by Louis van Gaal. The Netherlands squad featured among others Wim Jonk, Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Makaay, Ruud Hesp, Aron Winter, Richard Witschge and Pierre van Hooijdonk with it being managed by Guus Hiddink.

The viewership numbers in the Netherlands alone peaked at 2 million and it had a 26% total market share.[91] The income generated by the match was to be donated to two charities (Make a Wish Foundation and Laureus);[92] it generated so much money, however, that Van der Sar announced afterwards he would be starting his own charitable foundation to help spend the money.[93]

During the event, it was announced that Van der Sar would be working as an analyst for the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting covering the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League.[94] Van der Sar's son, Joe, made written comments stating his father would be working as a goalkeeping coach at Ajax within five years. Van der Sar himself said he did not want to make a full commitment to this, but confirmed it was likely and he was interested in building up his coaching career slowly, starting at the lower levels.[95]

On 27 May 2012, Van der Sar participated in the Soccer Aid 2012 Match, playing for the Rest of the World side in the first half, making a full-length save from John Bishop. He was replaced at half-time by comedian Patrick Kielty. He also took part in the Soccer Aid 2014 match on 8 June 2014, again playing for the Rest of the World side in the first half before being once again replaced at half time by Patrick Kielty.

Van der Sar took on a role as Ajax's marketing director on 19 November 2012.[96] He was promoted in late 2016 to the role of CEO.[97]

See also

  • List of footballers with 100 or more caps


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