Stekelenburg loan swoop a stroke of genius from Southampton
Ronald Koeman gave former Netherlands number one Maarten Stekelenburg his club debut at Ajax, and now he’s giving the goalie a chance to revive a stuttering career at Southampton, 12/1 with Coral for a top four finish.
The 32-year-old stopper has become the Saints’ third summer signing on a season-long loan from Fulham following the arrivals of Spanish striker Juanmi and Portugal right back Cedric Soares.
“I’m very pleased that I’ve joined,” Stekelenburg said. “It’s a big, nice club that will play European football – and I can play. Last year I didn’t play a lot, so it’s an opportunity for me.
“I’m grateful. The last two years weren’t the best of my career. As they say in England: the best is yet to come.”
An accurate observation and the hope Koeman can once again bring the best out of him. Stekelenburg, whose career reached its zenith when the Dutch reached the World Cup final in 2010, spent 2014/15 on loan at Monaco on their bench behind Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic following a relegation campaign at Craven Cottage.
Southampton’s first-choice custodian Fraser Forster sustained a serious knee injury in March and is unlikely to play again this year. Predecessor Artur Boruc was allowed to leave St Mary’s for south coast rivals Bournemouth on a permanent basis following their Premier League promotion.
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Of Stekelenburg, Saints Executive Director of Football of Les Reed added: “Maarten is a goalkeeper with a wealth of top-level experience who will prove to be an important addition to the squad at this early stage of pre-season.
“While Fraser Forster’s rehabilitation is progressing well, adding Maarten to our squad alongside Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga will give us strength in depth for what will be a busy season.”
That being said, Davis turns 39 in September and Argentine goalie Gazzaniga has seldom been trusted in anything other than the reserves.
Reed thus referenced Stekelenburg’s experience ahead of juggling a Europa League campaign with domestic commitments. “Maarten enjoyed tremendous success in Holland with Ajax and on the international stage,” he continued.
“His experience will be invaluable to us, especially with the arrival of European football. There was strong competition for Maarten’s services, so we are very pleased he has committed to our cause.”
Under Koeman, Stekelenburg won the first of five major honours in Amsterdam. If we see similar showings at Southampton from him, not only will Forster’s absence be covered, but there will be some genuine competition for the England understudy when he gets fit again.