Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2013

The Flying Fulham Dutchman?

Fulham look all set to make Oranje goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg their first Summer signing at Craven Cottage after reportedly agreeing a £3m deal with Serie A side AS Roma.  With Mark Schwarzer seemingly heading out the Cottage door – having rejected terms on a new deal – Jol has decided to rekindle a bid for a player he was a hair’s breadth away from signing in January.Maarten_Stekelenburg_(2010) Paul Blank

The comparisons between this deal and the one that took Edwin van der Sar to West London 12 years ago are striking.  van der Sar was an absolute hero at Ajax and went on to do great things in the Dutch national side – they both moved to Serie A at about the same age and they will have both joined the Cottagers at a relatively similar time in life.

The two goalkeeping giants are also known to share a great mutual respect, with van der Sar even identifying Stekelenburg as his preferred replacement when United’s keeper quest reached fever pitch in the lead-up to his retirement.  van der Sar then had this to say about Stekelenburg’s decision to swap Amsterdam for Rome, in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.  

“Maarten was ready to go abroad. If he was 21, I would have advised him to stay put at Ajax, but all the flying, playing more top games and having more great players around him in Serie A has helped him grow.”

“He has a personality that has really helped him make the step up to the international stage. I’d rather have nothing to do with flamboyant goalkeepers, and Maarten being quiet and sober is good for the Dutch national team.”

Will Stekelenburg be a major success in Fulham like his illustrious countryman?  There is absolutely no reason why not.  There are many who are baffled as to how L’Olandese Volante as he is known in Italy (The Flying Dutchman) has failed to really kick on in the capital.   van der Sar’s own departure from Italy was brought about by Gianluigi Buffon becoming the world’s most expensive keeper (and still the best ever in this humble hack’s opinion), yet Stekelenburg has been displaced by a combination of injuries and the form of Bogdan Lobont – another former Ajax keeper.  Big Maarten made only 19 Serie A-ppearances (new term – coined) this season but should flourish under his compatriot – and former coach in Amsterdam – Martin Jol.

Here’s hoping that this Amsterdammer can find his feet down by the river in West London – if he does, he may find himself emulating his hero in yet another way – as the resident Old Trafford shot stopper.

Words by Andy MacKay.