Jaap Stam: 'I don't regret writing my book. It was never my intention to upset anyone and I don't think it was brutal'

In the first of a regular series of electronic interviews, Glenn Moore asks the Milan defender about the Champions' League final, his Manchester United departure and the Netherlands' World Cup chances
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The Independent Online

Do you think Milan relaxed too soon? I heard that some people said we were celebrating in the tunnel and in our dressing-room at half-time because of the 3-0 lead - but that suggestion was ridiculous. Whoever thinks we would do that is just stupid. Despite our lead we knew that English teams never ever give up. There were no celebrations at all - we just wouldn't do such a thing. Every footballer knows that nothing is ever won after 45 minutes and at half-time we had no reason to be jubilant. We were satisfied of course, but it would have been crazy for us to celebrate a win at that stage.

How do you view the experience now? Looking back I think we have to give credit to Liverpool for coming back the way they did. Apart from a crazy six-minute spell we didn't too much wrong, but they made us pay heavily for our mistakes. Liverpool showed real character to win that match, but I think fate was also on their side.

Have you got over it yet? We are hopeful of bouncing back this season and winning the Champions' League, but as always it is a long shot, even for a club like Milan. With so many great teams in the competition it's the hardest trophy to win, and I think it's getting more and more difficult with every passing year.

Is winning the Champions' League more important than winning Serie A for you? All of Europe's biggest clubs place the Champions' League as their top priority these days but only one of us can lift the trophy. The domestic league titles are still crucial of course, but I think most players will tell you the Champions' League is the one they want to win most of all.

How are you enjoying your life in Italy? This is my fifth season in Italy and I am still enjoying the experience very much. Playing football over here is, however, very different from playing in England, where I was lucky to have some really happy times at Manchester United.

What is the difference between Serie A and the Premiership? The atmosphere is not the same as it is in England. The Italian fans love the game with a passion, but the noise is louder in the Premiership. The stadiums are more conducive to good atmospheres in England and the supporters really sing their hearts out for the teams. It's also more family-orientated in the Premiership than Serie A.

And on the pitch? On the pitch it's a lot more tactical in Serie A and maybe more defensive, too. The managers have a more cautious approach over here which does have an effect on the entertainment levels, I think. As a defender it can also be more frustrating to play in Italy because referees do not tolerate too much physical contact. I loved the physical nature of the game in England, but in Serie A I only have to look at a player and they sometimes fall to the floor! The referees are very strict and blow their whistle all the time. It can be infuriating.

What are your memories of playing Manchester United last season? Looking back on last season, I really enjoyed coming up against Manchester United in the Champions' League. I was gutted to miss the game at Old Trafford but it was satisfying to play in Milan's win at the San Siro.

Were you particularly keen to beat them, having left United in such haste in the summer of 2002? A lot was made of my reunion with United because of my sudden exit from the club, but I received a really friendly welcome from everybody when I saw them. It was great to catch up with some old friends, and everyone I spoke to was really positive towards me. I didn't get a chance to speak to Sir Alex Ferguson but that wasn't deliberate. Our situation is water under the bridge now, and we've both gone on to enjoy further success in our respective careers since going our separate ways. I wish him luck for the future.

Do you regret writing your book (which some thought was the catalyst for his departure)? I don't regret writing my book at all. I wrote it for the United supporters to give them a proper insight into what it is like inside the club, and what it is like to be a Manchester United player. I think I did that in an honest way. It was never my intention to upset anyone and I don't think I was brutal to anyone anyway. I just spoke in a way that footballers talk and all of the players knew that and as far as I know they thought it was a fair and honest book. The English press spun it in a different way, of course! I have always been a Manchester United supporter since I was a child, so that won't change. I still follow their results and wish them every success for the future. I still have many friends in Manchester, so the club will always feel very close to me.

What does the future hold? I'm 33 now and have two years left on my contract with Milan, but I am not looking to go too far beyond that. It's true that we have a lot of players at this club who are playing on into their late thirties, but I am not so sure if I will be one of them! I am happy to stay for the remainder of my contract but afterwards I may return to Holland. I have been away from my home country for so long now and feel it will be good for my family to return there in the next few years. I miss Holland and I have to consider the feelings of my wife and children.

Does management interest you? I don't see myself as a manager. I can't imagine doing that job. As a footballer I have made many sacrifices, travelling all over the place and being away from my family and if I was a manager the demands would be even greater. It's not what I want to do. Instead, I hope to coach children when I retire from the game. I'd love to help Dutch kids learn the game and pass my knowledge to them.

How do you think the Dutch will do at the World Cup finals? The future is in excellent shape. The national team is looking strong and there are a lot of quality youngsters coming through. World Cup qualification has gone better than expected, but I hope the expectations don't get out of hand. When they go over to Germany they will face some very stiff tests and maybe this competition will come too soon for them to win. I'd love it to happen, and it's possible because Holland can beat any team on their day, but I'd prefer the country not to expect too much too soon.

Jaap Stam is one of 55 players on the shortlist for the inaugural MasterCard FIFPro World Player Awards after being voted for by 38,000 of his professional colleagues around the world. The Final World XI will be announced at the awards ceremony at Wembley Conference and Exhibition Centre, London, tonight.

Attachment: The Stam low-down

* 1996: Debut for Netherlands against Brazil. Stam has made 67 appearances for his national team and scored three goals.

* 1999: Joins Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven for then world-record fee for a defender of £10.75m. Plays in Champions' League final against Bayern Munich won 2-1 by United in treble-winning year. While at United Stam also wins three League titles and an FA Cup winner's medal.

* 2001: Moves to Lazio in Serie A for £16.5m after leaving Manchester United soon after the publication of his outspoken autobiography.

* 2004: Joins Milan from Lazio in the summer.

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