11th July 2010, the World Cup final. Maarten Stekelenburg starts in goal for Holland against Spain in world class form that showed no sign of slowing down. The Dutchman was then considered one of the world’s best shot stoppers; but, seemingly that was the peak of his career and since then it’s been all downhill for the Dutchman. So where did it all go wrong and can he reach that form once again for the Saints?
The following season Stekelenburg went on to win the Eredivisie with Ajax, picking up his second player of the season award in succession. This sparked a move to Italian giants AS Roma for around Six million euros. It seemed that his career was still on the up playing for one of the best club’s in Europe, then came the ill-fainted move to premier league side Fulham.
Some players have it all, then make that one wrong move and poof, their career falls beneath them like a house of cards. It appears this is what happened to Stekelenburg, since his move in the summer of 2013 his stock has fallen faster than Ashley Young in the penalty box. Deciding to play for Martin Jol whom he’d worked with briefly during the 2009/10 campaign with Ajax, he signed a four year deal. In his first game he came off injured in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return to the side until the 21st of October, where he went on to lose his next four starts in goal. He did not have the best of times in goal for Fulham as they struggled to survive relegation, changing manager twice in the process. This cost Stekelenburg his place in the starting 11 and then squad all together, with David Stockdale, Jesse Joronen and Marcus Bettinelli being favoured ahead of the Dutchman. Fulham were eventually relegated from the Premier league, but can you really blame the goalkeeper for such poor form? Consider two things, one being just how good he was prior to the move to London and the second being just how bad Fulham’s defence was that year. Conceding 85 goals and finishing with a goal difference of -45 is simply too poor to blame on one individual . Clearly Stekelenburg or any keeper Fulham used didn’t stand much of a chance.
Next he moved to Monaco on loan (Fulham being in the championship needed his wages off the books) looking to resurrect a career that just two year’s previous was on the up. That season he was deputy to Danijel Subasic, playing only four games for the club, one of those being in the league. Despite this he still impressed when played, winning a penalty shoot-out against Lyon by saving Jordan Ferri’s attempt and saving two spot kicks against SC Bastia in another penalty shoot-out. Unfortunately the saves were in vain as Monaco still crashed out. At the end of the 14/15 season, Monaco announced Stekelenburg would return to parent club Fulham.
So this brings us back to Southampton. Stekelenburg finds himself once again with Ronald Koeman, the manager who gave him his professional debut at Ajax and helped build him into one of the most rated shot stoppers in Europe. So, what can saints fans expect? Its hard to tell, but with the defensive record the club so proudly boasts upon the conclusion of the season (finishing with a goal difference of +21 letting in a measly 33 goals all season) you would like to think that Stekelenburg will have a solid foundation to build upon when between the sticks. It must also be considered that this is early business, thus giving Steckelenburg a full pre-season to settle and time with England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson. With the combination, support and experience of Dave Watson and Ronald Koeman, Southampton can help Stekelenburg put issues of recent years behind him, which is all the club needs; a solid custodian until big Fraser Forster is back
On this basis, it’s a smart move. A cheap, experienced goalkeeper who has European game time and has played at the very top, deputising until Forster returns. At the end of the day, the future is in his hands : let’s hope that they are safe hands.