Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was one of the best Premier League forwards. In 2005 I wrote this book for HaperSport an imprint of HaperCollins Publishers.
Below you find a piece of chapter 7. In 2006 a paperpack was published and in 2007 a translated Dutch version.
Battles at the Bridge
The fact that Chelsea were still interested in me was absolutely fantastic. One year earlier, before my departure for Atlético Madrid, their manager Gianluca Vialli had expressed his eagerness to have me on board. However, since they had just signed Chris Sutton, I expected that their interest in me had now waned. Fortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the case. Looking back now, I can say that I had the best time of my life at Chelsea. As it turned out, Chris Sutton’s arrival at Stamford Bridge had no effect on my acquisition. Sutton had arrived from Blackburn Rovers in July 1999 for £10 million, a record amount for Chelsea at the time. Gianluca Vialli was still looking for a centre-forward for his team, and since, to everyone’s surprise, Atlético Madrid had been relegated, I was able to return to the Premier League sooner than I had imagined.
Vialli called me up just before the Spanish Cup Final between Atlético Madrid and Espanyol. He reached me on my mobile phone when I was on the bus with the team heading towards the hotel in Valencia for the match. He started off by asking me how long my holiday was that summer. I wasn’t exactly sure since I was scheduled to head off to the Euro 2000 training camp in Switzerland with the Dutch squad. Vialli said he wanted me with him as soon as possible, and so I promised him that I would join. I ended up not being chosen for the Dutch Euro 2000 final squad by manager Frank Rijkaard, so I was able to go on holiday earlier than I had anticipated and still have three weeks off.
I spent that holiday in Mexico with Nellie and Carlos, his girlfriend Saskia and their son, but it rained for days on end. After four days in the wet, we left for New York. On the way, during a stopover, I noticed that my agent Humphry Nijman had left a message on my phone saying that Atlético Madrid and Chelsea had reached an agreement on my transfer. Colin Hutchinson had called him about it, and Humphry wanted to hear from me personally about what my thoughts were. ‘Of course I want to go there,’ I told him. ‘There is nothing I’d rather do. Vialli wants me to be there, and I want to go too. Please quickly arrange everything with Chelsea because this is my big opportunity. It’s truly fantastic!’
A few days earlier Glasgow Rangers had also enquired about me. Their manager Dick Advocaat spoke to Humphry about me on the phone. Advocaat said that he was very keen to take me to Scotland. I never spoke to the former Dutch national manager myself about it. In any case, I wasn’t interested in going to Glasgow. Somehow I just didn’t fancy the Scottish league. It wasn’t a big enough challenge for me. There are only two clubs who really compete for the national title, Rangers and Celtic, so it just didn’t seem very exciting. There were also two top Spanish clubs who wanted to sign me, but it would have been a lot more difficult to move from Atlético Madrid to Real Madrid or Valencia. Real Madrid first had to get rid of Nicolas Anelka so they asked me if I could wait for that to happen. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do, moreover I needed more security than that. If I waited too long, then I probably would have been made to play Segundo División football. It was also too expensive for Atlético to pay me to play in the second tier. That’s why, when Humphry called, I told him immediately that I wanted to go to London and play for Chelsea. Once I had given him the go ahead, matters were rapidly sorted out.
When I reported for my first week of training at Chelsea, the Norwegian footballer Tore André Flo was still at the club. He later left for Glasgow Rangers for £12 million. I assume he was the second choice of Rangers, in case I refused to go. Chelsea must have been delighted with the money they got for him, since my transfer had cost them £15 million. It was a record amount in those days, not only for a Dutch footballer, but also for Chelsea. The fact that Tore André left was mostly due to the fact that he wasn’t very happy at the club. He was on the bench most of the time, and Vialli and his successor Ranieri usually employed him on the right flank. As he had been bought cheaply, Chelsea were naturally interested in cashing in on him big time. The club made a fortune since they had originally paid only about £200,000 when they bought him from the Norwegian club SK Brann.
My brother Carlos was also very excited. He often came to watch me play in Madrid, but I think he always preferred England. I think it was because he liked the English people better. He felt more at home with them. I had been to London with Carlos before. For example, he came over when Leeds United played against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. After the match we went out and explored the London night scene. At Leeds we were allowed to stay on after an away game – they were never very difficult about it. In Holland something like that would not be permitted. There you leave together and return together.
Eventually London became ‘my town’. When I started with Chelsea I hardly knew anything about it. During Euro 96 I drove past the British capital, having only heard things about it before. At that time I was playing for Boavista, and together with Bob Goeman, my brother Carlos, Randy and two other friends we passed London on our way to Birmingham. We had come over in order to watch Holland play against Switzerland as well as a few other games. Back then I would never have dared to imagine that two years later I would find myself playing in the World Cup in France.