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Verlinden looking beyond record

Published: Monday 8 December 2003, 16.35CET
Club Brugge KV's Dany Verlinden will become the oldest player to appear in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

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Published: Monday 8 December 2003, 16.35CET

Verlinden looking beyond record

Club Brugge KV's Dany Verlinden will become the oldest player to appear in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Club Brugge KV captain Dany Verlinden will become the oldest player in UEFA Champions League history on Tuesday when he takes the field at the Jan Breydelstadion for the game against AFC Ajax.

Points not plaudits
At 40 years, three months and 24 days, the Brugge goalkeeper will surpass by a week the record set by the former Olympiacos CFP player, Tasos Mitropoulos, against Rosenborg BK six years ago. However, it is three points - not plaudits - that Verlinden is after, as Brugge seek the win that will keep their European season alive.

Result matters
"Records are there to be broken, so making it into the Champions League record books because of my age means absolutely nothing to me," he told uefa.com. "It is not as important as getting a victory on Tuesday. That really would mean something to me."

Final season
"However, it does not bore me either if people point to my age every time," he added. "I know this will be my last season. I will be 41 in August and I think that will be enough."

Future in coaching
The Ajax match will be Verlinden's fourth in the Champions League this term, yet despite performances that suggest Verlinden can frustrate Father Time as well as he does any opposition forwards, the veteran is to hang up his gloves at season's end. A job coaching Brugge's goalkeepers of the future beckons.

Still getting better
His coach, Trond Sollied, said: "Dany is like a good wine - the older he is, the better he gets. He has been outstanding for us over the last few years, but we know he is not getting any younger. He will end his playing career at the end of the season and we are happy we have been able to persuade him to stay with the club as goalkeeping coach."

Glory days
For Verlinden, Europe's top club tournament holds many memories. There was a clean sheet kept against AC Milan at the San Siro in the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1990/91, and a Champions League debut two seasons later on the first-ever matchday, against PFC CSKA Moskva.

Unique achievement
However, the highlight arguably came in October when Brugge returned to Milan and came away with a 1-0 victory. "To win at the home of the Champions League holders was something unique," said the former Belgian international. "Yes, I had to make some good saves, but I just did my job like the rest of the boys.

Perfect memory
"What happened 13 years ago was nice, but this was even better. Certainly, it was the last time I could shine on a stage like that. That was definitely my fondest memory of all in the Champions League, it really was great."

Competitive streak
In a Brugge career stretching back to the summer of 1988, Verlinden has thrived on competition. He has won five Belgian titles and four Belgian Cups with the club, and maintained his No1 status ahead of the claims of international goalkeepers such as Slovenia's Dejan Nemec and now Croatia's Tomislav Butina - Brugge's current reserve custodian.

Chance of progress
Which is why, until the final whistle blows on Tuesday, Verlinden will not be conceding defeat in Brugge's bid to prolong their Champions League campaign beyond Christmas, at Ajax and RC Celta de Vigo's expense. "We are still in with a chance of making the next round," he said, "and, for that reason, I would much prefer to have a good game against Ajax than think about the record."

Last updated: 09/12/03 20.35CET

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