21 May, 2008

Winston and Lose Some

These days it is not uncommon for a player to sell his potential, along with any personal ambition, for a huge wage and a spot on the bench. Look at Steve Sidwell; outstanding last season at Reading, but after a year of doing literally nothing at Chelsea for twice the money, his career’s basically over already. However, many people might not know that the man who laid the blueprint for this goes by the name of Winston Bogarde, who played just 11 times for Chelsea between 2000 and 2004, but earned more than £5million by recent estimations. Thing is, he was coming to the end of a stalling career, and following a quite farcical spell in this country, was able to bask in ridicule while sticking a couple of middle fingers up at everyone’s favourites Blues.

Going back a bit, he had a fantastic pedigree in the 90s. After a formative few years at Sparta Rotterdam, Bogarde moved to Ajax in 1994, where in one of the greatest club squads ever assembled (Marc Overmars, the de Boer twins, Clarence Seedorf, Kanu, Jari Litmanen, and Patrick Kluivert, to name just a few), he won the Champions League in 1995. A spot in the Dutch national team followed, but at the 1998 World Cup he was seen as a dissident to the team morale, filmed forcibly pushing two white teammates aside as they were trying to celebrate Davids' winning goal in the second round match against Yugoslavia. The year of the World Cup he was at AC Milan, but played just thrice before being somehow offloaded to Barcelona, where he sat for the next three years, playing just nine times in total in the second two years. His highlight at Barce was undoubtedly in a 1999 Champions League group match against AIK where he was humiliatingly substituted after just 20 minutes, prompted by nearly getting sent off for a horror challenge on an opposing striker.

Here’s where it gets good though. He signed for Chelsea in 2000 season, but literally weeks after signing his contract with the club, the newly-appointed manager Claudio Ranieri wanted him to leave. According to Bogarde’s biography (which has possibly the greatest title I have ever heard – This Negro Bows for No One) it would have been impossible to find a contract comparable to the one he had at Chelsea, so he decided to stay and honour the full term of the agreement. In the end, he appeared just 11 times during his four-year contract, reportedly earning more than £40,000 a week. Quite why Chelsea agreed to such a salary in the first place, given his lack of first-team play at Milan and Barce, is ridiculous, but kudos to Bogarde for sticking with it. Chelsea also won a domestic trophy during this period which hilariously actually triggered a bonus payment in his contract, despite the fact that Bogarde did not feature at all for Chelsea that season.

During his time at Chelsea, they repeated tried to offload him because of his inflated wages. When no-one was interested, Chelsea demoted him to their reserves and then even their youth team in an effort to force Bogarde to leave, however he just kept turning up every day and attending whatever training he was assigned to. Bogarde then claims to have been set-up in a strangely contrived drugs scandal (similar to other Chelsea players Mark Bosnich and Adrian Mutu), but still he refused to leave or sign a new contract for a reduced wage. Bogarde continued to work every day with the Chelsea reserves until he left in 2004 and retired to a life of luxury all paid by the West London club’s weeping coffers. He took a lot of stick in the press for being greedy and selfish, but whatever, if Chelsea were dumb enough to lock him into a four-year contract for such inflated wages, then how can you blame him for keeping them to their word? I reckon at about £750,000 a game he was pretty good value!

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