Former Dutch international Stam retires

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AMSTERDAM, Oct 29 (Reuters) Former Dutch international defender Jaap Stam has ended his playing career because of injury and lack of focus.

The 35-year-old Ajax Amsterdam player told a news conference today he had thought about retiring before the start of the season but had been persuaded to continue.

''Before this season I spoke with Ajax and told them that I missed the drive to continue,'' Stam told reporters.

''But they persuaded me to go on, although physical problems are the reasons for quitting right now.'' ''When I play I am more focused on myself than the team and that is not good, not for the team and not for me, because it reduces my concentration and causes mistakes.'' Stam played his last match for Ajax on October 20 against NEC Nijmegen when he was substituted after feeling ill.

Stam started his career in 1992 in the second division at Zwolle and earned his first big transfer four years later when he signed for PSV Eindhoven.

He joined Manchester United in 1998 and won the treble in his first season in England, before moving to Lazio in 2002 after he criticised United boss Alex Ferguson in his biography.

After three years in Rome Stam moved on to AC Milan and in 2006 he returned to the Netherlands to finish his career at Ajax, where he signed a two-year deal.

Stam won 67 caps and scored three goals for the Dutch team before ending his international career after the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

Reuters PDS GC2104

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