Fulham FC have a fair bit of history when it comes to acquiring top-class goalkeepers. Edwin van der Sar's signing from Juventus for a club record £7m in 2001 was a clear statement from the London club, signalling their intent to become a permanent fixture in the Premier League. Which they have of course done! Van der Sar's eventual replacement, Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer, has recently turned 40, and with his contract due to expire at the end of the season Fulham are on the lookout for a replacement.
Schwarzer will be a tough man to replace at Fulham. He is a popular figure around the club and he was part of the Fulham side that had that amazing run to the UEFA Cup Final in 2010. The man that has been muted as the Australian's replacement is Dutch No. 1 Maarten Stekelenburg. His agent has made it clear that Fulham are one of a few clubs that are interested in taking him off AS Roma's hands.
Since making his €6.3m move to Roma from Ajax in the summer of 2011, the Dutchman has not had the best of times. Injuries, suspensions and some suspect defending in front of him have all been the primary contributors.
Following an inconsistent first season with the club, he has made just nine starts this campaign under new manager Zdenek Zeman, whose cavalier approach has done little to help firm up the leaky Roma defence he inherited. Zeman clearly attributes some of the blame to Stekelenburg, however, as he now finds himself as the club's backup keeper, having been ousted by the young Uruguayan Mauro Goicoechea. This seems to have alerted a host of interested parties.
It's strange to see such a solid 'keeper being phased out by a side that has such a plethora of defensive issues. Prior to Stekelenburg's move to Roma in the summer of 2011, he was considered one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. He still is by many.
Let's not forget—this is a goalkeeper who played a massive part in Holland reaching the World Cup Final less than three years ago. And whilst you could point to the considerably less impressive results in the European Championships two years later, the Dutch would have been on the end of some embarrassing score-lines if it hadn't been for Stekelenburg.
This looks like a move that has the potential to tick all the boxes for both parties. Fulham could be the ideal place for Stekelenburg to reignite his stuttering career. He knows all about Fulham boss Martin Jol since they worked well together at Ajax. For players who are sometimes struggling, a return to familiarity can often bring about a change in fortunes.
Under Jol at Fulham, he would undoubtedly be the first choice at goalkeeper, with the club's young prospect, David Stockdale, going out on loan to Hull to get some first-team experience. With the likes of Michel Vorm and Tim Krul pushing Stekenlenburg for the national-team spot, first-team action is a must if he is to continue to justify his position in the Dutch first XI. He knows that this will not be a given at AS Roma.
As for Fulham, the signing of Stekelenburg would represent another major coup in the goalkeeping department. He remains a big name in European football and his signing would be in keeping with Jol's efforts to increase the profile of the club. The summer signing of Dimitar Berbatov has already shown that the club has a progressive and ambitious mentality. Securing Stekelenburg's signature would only emphasise this further. Fulham may well start to look like a much more attractive proposition for other players looking for a new club.
At 30 years of age, the former Ajax man is still young in goalkeeping terms. So Fulham will either have a top goalkeeper for the foreseeable future, or if they do choose to move him (for whatever reason that may be), then he would still have a resale value.
So, it makes sense from a business perspective, for the club and for the player. This rumour certainly looks as though it could have legs, and I for one would find it intriguing to see how Stekelenburg would fare in the rough and tumble of the Premier League. Over to you Jol...
Would Stekelenburg be a good option for Fulham? Are there any other viable options to replace Mark Schwarzer?
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