One on One Edwin Van Der Sar
WAS VA n GAAL AL WAYS SO BONKERS? WHY DID ARIEL ORTEGA HEADBUTT HIM? DOES HE STILL LAUGH ABOUT JT’S SLIP?
It’s not often a club CEO is the subject of One-on-One – but it’s not often that a CEO also happens to have won eight league titles and two European Cups. “The way I try to make the club more successful, in terms of raising revenue and winning trophies, is similar to how I captained teams as a keeper,” Ajax’s Edwin van der Sar says, before outlining the similarities between dominating an 18-yard box and a boardroom. Van der Sar believes that, although he may not have a strong academic background or years and years of business experience on his CV, his two decades in the game give him invaluable insight into how to run a club. Particularly this club, where he played with distinction from 1990-99, lifting four Eredivisie titles, three Dutch Cups, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League, beating Milan in 1995. All of that should stand Edwin in good stead when it comes to answering your questions about his glittering career, too.
Had you always dreamt of becoming a goalkeeper? Do you remember the first time that you ever went in goal?
Chris Ambler, via Facebook For the first one and a half years I was an outfield player. But then one day our keeper didn’t show up for a game and the coach said to me: “Edwin, you’re the tallest, so you go in goal.” That went so well that I just ended up staying there. For many years I’d played for a small amateur side called VV Noordwijk, and I did not expect my dream of becoming a professional to ever come true. When I was around 19, I was approached by Sparta Rotterdam to be the third-choice goalkeeper. However, they only offered to cover my travel expenses, so I chose to stay where I was at Noordwijk. Then a few days later Ajax phoned and asked me to go and sign for them, which I did.
What are your thoughts on the rise of the sweeper-keeper? You were always good with your feet, did you inspire it?
Nav Singh, via Facebook During the 1990s we deployed a system at Ajax where I was indeed involved in the build-up play, and it can be an asset if you want to use a certain style of play. Sometimes I believe that people attach too much importance to it. A goalkeeper is there mainly to stop the ball going in. Louis van Gaal occasionally appeared a bit eccentric when he was managing in England. Was he like that at Ajax? Laura Matthews, via Facebook He hasn’t really changed very much, in terms of how he deals with the press or how he is with people in private – like at a dinner party, for example. I visited one of his training sessions when he was at Manchester United and I still saw a very driven man who is continuously focused on improving his players. The way that he dealt with players, the key elements of his training sessions and his general rules – it was all still very recognisable to me, even after so many years away. Do you think another Dutch team will lift the Champions League trophy? It is not very likely now, unfortunately. Andy Green, via Twitter [ Puffs out cheeks] That will be very, very difficult. Even in my time, like 20 years ago, it was still a massive achievement, but back in those days you had only one club per country and perhaps 16 teams overall in final stages of the competition. With the new model the romance has somewhat gone, I believe. Even if they implement some new rules, I think the bigger teams will always dominate the tournament as they will overtake all of the other clubs with their huge budgets. That Ajax squad was full of players every club in Europe wanted to sign. Who did Juventus have to compete with to finally land your signature? Paul Kelly, via Facebook When I left Ajax in 1999, I travelled to Liverpool and spoke to Gerard Houllier. I was shown around Anfield and also met with the chairman and a couple of the players. I thought about it properly, but when Juventus came to the table I came to the conclusion that it would