Born: 14 August 1976, Maastricht, Netherlands
Age in 2005: 28
When people think of FC Barcelona in the late 90s, their minds often conjure images of footballing greats. Laudrup, Guardiola, Ronaldo, De Boer – the list goes on. However, what most tend to forget is that not everyone who starred for Barça during that era was great. Some of them weren’t even that good. That’s where Boudewijn Zenden comes in.
Long haired and Dutch, from a young age Zenden was gifted with a choice: judo or football. To pursue a career spent attempting to tackle people to the ground before watching others do the same from the sidelines, or a career in judo. Much to the regret of his judo practising father and, later on, Chelsea, who in a moment of madness had dished out £7.5m on him, Zenden chose football.
(Above: Bolo often killed two birds with one stone and used his judo moves in matches)
‘Bolo’ began his career at PSV in the Eredivisie, before joining the Catalonian side in 1998 under Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, who wanted to improve his Spanish skills by signing loads of Dutch players. Although initially deployed in central midfield, it wasn’t long before Bolo was moved to his more natural position on the far side of the pitch, close to the subs’ bench, a position he also often occupied. Despite photobombing various photos of Barcelona’s good players holding up the La Liga trophy, Bolo became tired of being described by The Guardian as a ‘poor man’s Marc Overmars’ and signed for Chelsea in the summer of 2001.
However, the Chelsea of Ken Bates and Mario Melchiot turned out to be rather different from the glitzy star-studded squad under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, and Zenners soon found himself on Teeside defending Middlesbrough’s mid-table league position instead. A season-long loan was turned into a permanent move under Steve ‘Good Manager’ McClaren, whose transfer policy was later described by Boro’s board of directors as “reckless.”
Yet the Dutchman did well in the northeast, scooping up the League Cup in his first season with the club. During the match, the player was left with a red face as red as the red shirt he was wearing when, just seven minutes into the final, he slipped over backwards whilst doubling the team’s lead through a penalty.
Even his attempt at turning the incident into a stylish celebration couldn’t make up for the fact that he’d scored the least cool winning goal in the least cool competition’s history. Middlesbrough kept both boots he’d worn to take the bitter-sweet spot kick on display, a relic that if looked at in close enough detail, can be identified as a pair of grubby Pumas.
(Above: Zenden looking like a complete buffoon whilst taking Middlesbrough’s penalty)
Then, under the direction of Rafa Benítez, Liverpool decided they’d quite like a piece of the action, and snapped up the slippery flanker in 2005, a season after winning the Champions League with Djimi Traore. Sadly, injuries soon got the better of “Bolo The Belt” Zenden and he once again found himself slipping, this time down the pecking order rather than whilst winning the final of a tin pot cup. Rafa quickly called time on Bolo’s term with the Reds, as he resentfully packed his bags and trotted back up north to play for Sunderland.
However it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Tyne and Wear. Already well aware of the power of the YouTube after it had helped spread the news of his toppling penalty like wildfire, Zen once again became an internet sensation when he performed a funny little dance celebration alongside Black Cats’ striker Asamoah Gyan. Commenting on Zenden in the video, Lee Dixon said: “It looks like he’s just had a hip operation.”
At the end of the 2010/11 season, having fallen from the zenith of his power, Zenny decided to quit football to pursue a career in coaching, having added a League Cup winners’ medal to the ‘Champion of Judo in the Province of Limburg Award’ he’d received aged 14.
Where is he now?
When Zenden isn’t watching the 54 second compilation of all his goals on YouTube, he works for a Dutch TV channel called Ziggo, which he claims is a bit like Sky, perhaps in the same way that a Renault Clio is the same as a Ferrari because they both have wheels.
What did he say?
“We had some excellent players at Middlesbrough like Colin Cooper”