I remember the day my agent got a call from Gerard Houllier.

He wanted to meet me in person when my agent made it clear that I would only be playing at Ajax for two years. He came right when I was ready to talk to other teams.

It was a crazy experience to go through so much as a young boy. A lot of teams were waiting to see who I was going to pick, so Houllier came to Amsterdam to sit down with me and my agent. 

We had a great conversation. He had just finalised a deal to bring Sami Hyypia to Anfield and was well aware that my next move would be to England. I just wanted to impress my big brother by playing in the country that he wanted me to play in. He said the best way to achieve that was to go to a great football school called Ajax. 

When I met with Houllier he was so relaxed and took the time to explain to me how he wanted his team to play and where he wanted me to play. It was great to hear how he felt about Liverpool’s new stars at the time. He was talking about how Steven Gerrard had just come through and that he was going to be as important as Micheal Owen. And he was right about that one!

This made me really think longer about my decision, because my call with Chelsea and Vialli would take place after the meeting. 

Houllier was passionate and really knew how he would take his club by storm. He definitely did that and brought some glory to Merseyside.

I end up choosing Chelsea because I wanted to play for a team in a city like London that made me feel at home. At Chelsea I never looked back and knew I had made the right choice because I loved my time playing there. And I am grateful I was able to play against Houllier’s team where I could see his work in action. He would always have a strategy for how he would like to play against teams, and he stuck to the plan until the final minute. 

Thank you for being you and taking the time to sit down with a young kid with a big dream, and being so honest and open to me. I will always respect you for being a coach with a mission.

RIP Mr Houllier, and thoughts to your loved ones. #mmlove