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Money for nothing

A biography of Winston Bogarde may finally shed some light over his time at Chelsea. Why did he come and why did not he leave? 'Deze neger buigt voor niemand' (This black man bows for no one) is written by Dutch free-lance journalist Marcel Rözer and seeks to answer those very questions.

In August 2000 Winston Bogarde thought his future was in Newcastle. Bobby Robson was keen to take him on a free transfer from Barcelona and only his signature was missing from a long-term commitment. At the last moment however, Chelsea stepped in with an offer that doubled the one from Sir Bobby.

There was no doubt in Bogarde's mind: he would move to London. Except for a small Lost in Translation-moment during the medical test, when Bogarde insisted his knee-injury was 'recurring' rather than 'recovering', all parties happily agreed to a four-year contract worth a reported 2 million pound annually. Afterwards Bogarde met manager Gianluca Vialli, who told him: 'I am so glad that you are going to help us!'

Three weeks later Bogarde arrived at Stamford Bridge to gain match-fitness with the reserves, only to find out that Vialli was fired. Oh, no, here we go again, was his reaction. When Bogarde went to AC Milan three years before to join Patrick Kluivert and Edgar Davids, his dream of recreating the best days of Ajax in Serie A was shattered when Arrigo Sacchi got the boot before a game was played that season. In came Fabio Capello. Within weeks Capello had enough of the meddlesome Dutchmen, who constantly argued with him over training set-ups and tactics.

In Holland assertiveness is considered a boon for a player, in Italy the managers think otherwise. Capello named them 'professori Hollandi' and that was not meant to be complementary. An unfortunate backpass in Udine, causing defeat, did not help Bogarde's case, after which most of his Milanese days were spent in the stands.

Then Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal relieved him of the boring training sessions at Marinello. The 97-98 season seemed a happy one for Bogarde. He was part of the title winning team and earned a recall for the Dutch team. However, just before he should have replaced the suspended Arthur Numan in the semi-final against Brazil at France 98 he broke his ankle in training.

The next year Barcelona were suffering a below-par season which resulted in the sacking of Van Gaal. The new manager, Perreira, did not care much for Bogarde, sending him on a free transfer although there was still a year on his contract. Therefore the interest from Premiership clubs suited him well that summer.

Unfortunately, Bogarde's gut feeling was on the mark that evening at Stamford Bridge. Vialli was replaced by Claudio Ranieri and soon Bogarde ran into the same kind of trouble he had already experienced with Capello. His cavalier approach on the pitch is diametrically opposed to the caution of Italian tactics. And Bogarde has some secret buttons which, if pressed, can agitate him quite quickly.

Unable to handle this big, menacing brother Ranieri relegated him to the reserve team. Later Bogarde did not even have a squad number or a shirt and spent his days on the training ground with Chelsea's youth team. He never considered a premature termination of his contract, whatever Chelsea offered him. 'That money is mine', he said.

To understand this, the book returns to Bogarde's upbringing. The youngest of a family of 13, whose father, a volatile man, infrequently came home. Bogarde still does not care for him and has not seen him in years. He loved his mother though and vowed to build her a house in Surinam, which sadly was only finished after her death.

When his father was not around, his youth was ok. He mainly played football, although he says: 'If I had not succeeded as a player, I would have become a criminal; a big one.' His family tends to disagree as they say he is far too nice to step into the underworld. We'll never know as he did succeed in football as part of the successful Ajax team of the nineties. Not extremely talented, but physically and mentally very strong.

But sometimes his pride and determination got in the way. 'Everywhere I came I had a disadvantage. Because I am black,' he says. Maybe, maybe not; there is no clear evidence of racism in the book. A turning point in his career in Holland is when the salaries at Ajax surfaced in the spring of 1996. Several black players seemed to earn much less than the white, while the offered extensions on their contracts did not make up for that. The situation exploded during Euro 96 resulting in the expulsion of Edgar Davids and most of the coloured players left on a free Bosman transfer.

So when Bogarde earned a satisfying amount at Chelsea he decided to stay out his time at the club or leave when he could make the same money elsewhere. Bogarde explains:

'Why should I throw fifteen million euro away when it is already mine? At the moment I signed it was in fact my money, my contract. Both sides agreed wholeheartedly. I could go elsewhere to play for less, but you have to understand my history to understand I would never do that. I used to be poor as a kid, did not have anything to spend or something to play with. This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so many. I am one of the few fortunates who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership, but I don't care.'

He did feel humiliated, when he had to walk along his former Chelsea team-mates to play with the youngsters. And he hung a calendar on the wall of his London appartment to cross out the remaining sixty days of his contract, like a prisoner would. Off the training ground his life those days consisted of Bacardi-cola, phone calls home and large stacks of DVD's.

Eventually the 14th of May 2004 arrived : he had won the battle. He shook hands with some employees at Chelsea and a couple of players and left for the airport. The contract was over. Now he is a partner in Global Music Entertainment which organizes rock concerts in Holland. His football career is behind him, although his wish is to bring the national team of Surinam to the World Cup of 2014.

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