Edwin van der Sar has been given compassionate leave by Manchester United to be with his wife after she suffered a brain haemorrhage.
Annemarie van Kesteren has been described as "very poorly" after collapsing on 23 December. She has been in hospital ever since and United have told Van der Sar to take as long as he needs before returning to play in goal.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, has been keeping in regular contact with the former Holland international and the club have explained his absence from their Christmas programme as being because he is still troubled by the knee injury that had kept him out since the 3-0 defeat of Everton on 21 November.
In the meantime, Ferguson will choose between Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster to compete for the vacant goalkeeping slot in place of the man Ferguson recently described as rivalling Peter Schmeichel to be recognised as the greatest goalkeeper in the club's history. United's next game is at home to Wigan on Wednesday.
Ferguson prides himself on looking after his players in emergency situations and has stressed to Van der Sar that there is no pressure on him to return before he is ready. The manager said: "Annemarie had a problem when they were over in Holland about a week ago. She was admitted to hospital and that's the best place to be until they examine her thoroughly to get to the root of it. I've told Edwin just to stay there; there's no point in him being over here. He's in the right place beside his wife and hopefully she'll make a good recovery."
Rob Jansen, the agent who represents the 39-year-old Van der Sar, declined to comment, saying it was "private business," but Van der Sar is said to be deeply shocked by what has happened. Relatives have joined him as he looks after the couple's young son, Joe, and daughter, Lynn.
Van der Sar, the most capped footballer of all time for Holland with 130 appearances, met Annemarie when he was shopping at her brother's grocery store. The couple were married in Amsterdam in May 2006, with Ruud van Nistelrooy, the Real Madrid striker who has been a team-mate of Van der Sar with United and Holland, among the guests. They live in Cheshire, where Annemarie deliberately tries to shun the celebrity lifestyle.
Van der Sar has recently been contemplating an offer from the Dutch football authorities to come out of retirement to play for his country in the World Cup in South Africa next year, where they will compete in a group with Japan, Cameroon and Denmark. He had turned down their initial approach, but further talks were planned in the coming months.
Juventus Ace Alessandro Del Piero Sends Well Wishes To Manchester United's Edwin Van Der Sar(Goal.com)
Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero has expressed his wish for a speedy recovery to Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar's wife, Annmarie.
The 36-year-old collapsed at home suffering a stroke, as the netminder and his family were preparing for Christmas celebrations, according to The Daily Mail.
"To Edwin, my former Juventus team-mate and great adversary with Ajax and the Netherlands national team," Del Piero stated on his website, as quoted by Sportal.
"And to his wife who is going through a serious situation, I wish I could be close to both of you at this time, and I send my best regards that it will all finish positively in the end."
The Red Devils shot stopper has also been out of action for several weeks with a knee injury.
CHIN UP, EDWIN(Alessandro Del Piero Official Website)
Latest sad news from Internet:
"Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has been placed on the indefinite leave after his wife suffered the brain hemorrhage.
As reported in Guardian, Annemarie van Kesteren collapsed on the 23rd December, and was recovered in Manchester hospital. Her conditions, according to the newspaper, are “very serious”.
The couple has been married since 2006 and they have two children Joe and Lynn. Edwin Van der Sar has just recovered from the knee injury and hasn't been playing since the 21st November”.
Edwin was my team mate in Juventus and an excellent opponent in Ajax and in the National Holland team. I'd like to be close to him and his wife in this difficult for them moment and wish with all my heart that all the problems will be solved as soon as possible.