The first time I met Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink I knew he was a top goal scorer. I knew him from his time at Leeds and Atletico Madrid, but I met him for the first time when he arrived at Chelsea.
He’s always been an interesting figure to me. Most successful Dutch footballers come from one of the great football schools in Holland, but Jimmy didn’t.
When you make it to the first team at Ajax, the coaches tell you: “If you don’t become a successful player after playing here, it is because of your character.”
By that stage, you have shown that you have the ability and are now placed in the perfect football environment, so its up to you to push yourself to the next level. But with Jimmy this wasn’t the case. He didn’t come from one of the top academies, but he still managed to have an amazing career that most players would dream of.
He made his way to the top because of the way he played. Jimmy is a true winner and will do whatever it takes to get the right results.
When we were at Chelsea together, we could have the biggest disagreement in training or in a game, but the beautiful thing was that afterwards we would go straight back to having jokes and grabbing food together.
I learned a lot from him, including the English culture as he knew it before I arrived in the UK. If I took an elbow to the face while going up for a header, he would scream at me and teach me how to protect myself. Jimmy and Marcel Desailly would tell me I couldn’t hangout with my friends straight after training, saying instead that I should go home and sleep for an hour first.
I didn’t understand it at first, but they were so fit and experienced, so I tried it. My energy levels went up immediately and from then on I never wasted energy and always allowed my body to recover.
Today I smile when I see Jimmy doing so well as a manager. To be honest, it’s all I would expect from a man with a character as big as his.
After hanging up his boots, Jimmy worked for TV for a while before becoming a coach. After his spell as a coach he returned to the UK and took a job at Burton Albion. I think some ex-players who had achieved as much as him would snub a job in the lower leagues, but in true Jimmy style he accepted the challenge and I’m sure will find his way to the top, just as he did in his playing days. I’ll enjoy watching him do so.
We are still good friends, and when we talk it’s just like the old days – the big brother talking to the little one. I’m still trying to convince him that I’m not little anymore, but i guess some things never change.