Thursday, August 27, 2015

27 August 2001 - Ferguson's Greatest Mistake

On 27 August 2001, Dutch center back Jakob "Jaap" Stam completed his transfer from Manchester United to Lazio for a United-record £16.5 million. The move was a shock to everyone, including Stam.

Stam had arrived at Old Trafford in 1998 when United bought him from PSV Eindhoven for £10.6 million, making him history's most expensive Dutch footballer to that point. In his three seasons at United, the club won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. Individually, England's Professional Footballers' Association voted Stam to their Team of the Year for all three seasons.

In the summer of 2001, however, excerpts began appearing in the press from Stam's upcoming autobiography, Head to Head, including criticisms of his United teammates and claims that United manager Alex Ferguson ordered his players to dive in European matches. He also suggested that Ferguson violated FIFA rules in purchasing him from PSV. Within two weeks after those stories broke, Stam found himself in Lazio.

Ferguson claimed that Lazio's offer of £16.5 million - which more than doubled the previous record fee of £7 million received by United from Inter for midfielder Paul Ince in 1995 - was simply too good to refuse. In 2009, Ferguson admitted that Stam's transfer was one of his greatest mistakes, noting that the defender continued to play a top level for several years afterward.

Stam eventually retired in 2007 after seasons at Lazio, Milan, and Ajax.

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