Just before the door closed on Edwin van der Sar’s professional career on Saturday, he spent a few minutes chatting to FIFA.com about his time between the sticks. After giving his time so graciously to waiting journalists, the Ajax and Manchester United legend made one final stop to chat to FIFA’s official website before he headed out of the stadium door.
Since making his debut over 20 years ago for the Amsterdam giants, Van der Sar has enjoyed a trophy-laden career, winning 26 different honours, including four Eredivisie crowns, four Premier League titles, three UEFA Champions Leagues and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Although his final match was tinged with disappointment as United lost 3-1 to Barcelona at Wembley, the 1.97m Dutchman is taking great heart from his past achievements, especially United’s Champions League success against Chelsea in Moscow two years ago.
“I’m quite relaxed at the moment,” he told FIFA.com. “I’m obviously disappointed that we didn’t win but in general, I’m OK.
“I’ve had a great career. I’ve won titles left and right in Holland and in England, but the one highlight that stands out is the save against Anelka (in the Champions League final penalty shoot-out in 2008).”
As well as the trophies, Van der Sar also holds several notable distinctions. He won 130 caps for the Netherlands, a record for the country, appearing in the FIFA World Cups of 1998 and 2006, as well as UEFA EURO 2000, 2004 and 2008. He holds a worldwide league record for keeping a clean sheet for 1,311 minutes, achieved in the 2008/09 Premier League season.
Van der Sar will also go down as the first goalkeeper to keep 50 clean sheets in the UEFA Champions League and become the first non-British player to be active in the Premier League beyond the age of 40. Understandably, ending his playing days was a real wrench for the former Juventus and Fulham player, who actually almost reversed his verdict a fortnight ago, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
"Edwin decided he wants to go out at the top, though he did have a wobble last week,” said the Scot. “He came to see me and told me he was thinking about changing his mind.
"I had to tell him to be quick about it because we are in the middle of concluding a deal for a new keeper. He came back a couple of days later to say he would be sticking with his original decision to go, which I think at his age is the right thing for him to do.
"His career has been absolutely fantastic. It is not just what he does on the football field. It is how he handles himself as a professional and a human being. He is absolutely outstanding. In our dressing room at half-time and before games, he has been absolutely fantastic.”
With praise ringing in his ears from team-mates past and present, and legends of the game, Van der Sar now heads back to the Netherlands to begin a new chapter of his life with his wife and two children.
“The first thing I’m going to do is to try and get away from football for a little bit, because I think life after it can be enjoyable as well,” he said. “Of course it’s going to be hard, of course you’re going to miss it, especially when the league starts and you see your team play, but all good things come to an end.”