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Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Stam's United dream dies
BBC Sport Online profiles the career of Dutch defender Jaap Stam.
When Jaap Stam was growing up in Holland, Manchester United were his favourite side, but now he has played his last match for the Old Trafford club.
Three years ago the 29-year-old realised a dream by moving to Old Trafford in a £10.75m move from PSV Eindhoven.
This season the dream became a "self-confessed" nightmare after only one game when he fell out of favour with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Stam fell short of his own high standards in the Charity Shield match with Liverpool and then the Premiership opener against Fulham.
His poor performances followed the serialisation of his controversial autobiography in The Mirror newspaper.
Stam paid the ultimate price, staying at home last week, when United drew 2-2 at Blackburn.
Ferguson insisted that the Dutch defender needed a break and that he would return to the side.
That break has now proved to be something more permanent.
Stam's revelations in the book shocked United. He claimed Ferguson approached him while still at PSV, which contravenes Fifa guidelines.
Stam also derided David Beckham and accused the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil, of being whingers.
The Dutchman also claimed that United players were told to dive in European games to win penalties.
Stam was startled at the outcry but his agent Mike Williams claimed it would not affect his career at United.
He has been a popular figure with the supporters since his high-profile arrival in 1998.
Stam was born 17 July 1972 in a small Dutch town called Kampen and began his career at small clubs FC Zwolle and Cambuur Leeuwarden.
But the Dutchman's big break came in 1994 when Willem II spotted the raw talent and took him under their wings.
The defender's 6ft 3in frame was coupled with a great first touch and superb speed - it was only a matter of time before he would take another step up the football ladder.
World record fee
In 1996, PSV Eindhoven signed Stam and he then won his first international cap.
After impressive performances on the international and Champions League stage, Ferguson took a chance in 1998 and paid a world record fee for a defender.
Stam soon became part of Old Trafford folklore.
After making his debut in September, he and the team embarked on their treble-winning run.
The big Dutchman helped United to the league title and although he did not start the FA Cup final after having just recovered from an Achilles injury, he took his place in the historic Champions League final win over Bayern Munich.
He missed part of the 2000/2001 campaign, but his return aided United in their run-in as they picked up yet another league crown.
The revelation in his autobiography regarding his meeting with Ferguson prior to official talks between United and PSV shocked many, and most probably the manager himself.
The reaction from the publication may have had an effect on his patchy performance in the 3-2 win over Fulham at the start of the 2001/2002 season.
Stam did not feature in following fixture against Blackburn leading to rumours that there might have been a rift between the player and his manager - are rumour it is now hard to refute.
He missed four months of last season because of an Achilles injury.
But when he returned in January the defence conceded just 12 goals in 18 games on their way to clinching a third successive title.
Ferguson has previously stated that his defence would be made up of "Stam and one other", and before signing a new five-year deal in February, Stam said: "I don't see another club being a step up.
"I would love to play out my career at Old Trafford. You feel as though you are making history here."
Stam is now history himself as far as United are concerned as he heads to Rome to start another chapter in his career with Lazio.
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