Bolo’s French fancy

Boudewijn Zenden, who prefers to be called Bolo, was keen on judo as a child and earned his black belt by the age of 14. Football, however, was his true love and his early excellence for hometown team Maastricht earned him a place at the PSV Eindhoven academy, writes Andy Hampson.

Former Holland international Boudewijn Zenden moved to French outfit Marseille ahead of the new season after six years in England with Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Liverpool. He made his name at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona.

Zenden, a flying left-winger or full-back, was rated as one of the hottest talents in Holland when he was snapped up by Spanish giant Barcelona in 1998. He played for his country in the 1998 World Cup and in the 2000 and 2004 European Championships.

He left Spain to try his luck in England but his spell in the English Premier League came to a low-key end after an injury-ravaged two seasons at Liverpool.

Zenden had a sporting upbringing with his father Pierre — now his agent — competitive in judo as well as being a sports reporter for radio. Zenden junior, who prefers to be called Bolo, was himself keen on judo as a child and earned his black belt by the age of 14. Football, however, was his true love and his early excellence for hometown team Maastricht earned him a place at the PSV Eindhoven academy.

He continued to catch the eye and made his way into the first team, making his debut in 1994-95 and playing a key part in the title-winning side of 1996-97. He capped the latter season by collecting the Dutch Player of the Year award and earning international recognition.

After one more season at PSV he was taken to Barcelona by Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, who had moved to the Nou Camp from Ajax the previous year. He was deployed more as a wing-back by the Catalan giants but impressed as the club won the Primera Liga title in his first season.

His performances brought him to the attention of a wider audience but he began to slip down the pecking order after Van Gaal’s resignation in 2000 and he decided to seek a new challenge.

It came from Chelsea, who paid GBP7.5 million for his services in 2001. He spent three seasons as a Blues player and featured in the 2002 FA Cup final but injuries prevented him from finding consistency.

He was loaned out to Middlesbrough in 2003 and joined the club permanently the following year after scoring the winning goal against Bolton in the Carling Cup final.

Boro moved him to central-midfield for much of 2004-05 and he impressed enough to earn the club’s Player of the Season award. However, he was only on a one-year contract and when it expired he joined Liverpool on a free transfer.

Zenden was one of Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez’s major signings as the Reds looked to build on their UEFA Champions League win in 2005. It was a move too good to turn down but Zenden struggled to make an impact at Anfield after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in December that year. It ruled him out for the rest of the season and he could only watch as his team-mates won the FA Cup in May 2006. He recovered for the start of the following season but another knee problem meant he played only a fragmented part in the campaign.

Zenden’s move to Marseille was a relatively straightforward one, aided by the fact his wife Olga is French. “It is an important decision because it is a team that plays every year with the intention of winning something, which is the same ambition as my own,” said Zenden, who speaks fluent French. “That makes things a lot easier,” he added.

During his time at Liverpool, Zenden drove around in a GBP110,000-worth Aston Martin DB9, a sportscar popular with EPL footballers and capable of speeds of up to 186mph. He was previously spotted in an Aston Martin Vanquish.

FACTFILE Name: Boudewijn Zenden Position: Defender or midfielder Club: Marseille DOB: 15/08/1976 Holland caps: 54 Holland goals: 7 Holland debut: v San Marino, April 1997 Moment to remember

Zenden was at the height of his powers around the turn of the millennium and was outstanding in Euro 2000, after which he was named in the Team of the Tournament. He scored in group wins over Denmark and France but it was his performance against Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals that really caught the eye. Zenden ran the Yugoslavs ragged in a 6-1 thrashing in Rotterdam — although Patrick Kluivert took most of the plaudits for his four goals.

Moment to forget

Zenden played a huge role in the greatest moment in Middlesbrough history as it won the Carling Cup — its first ever trophy — in 2004. But three days later it was a different story as a jaded Boro was beaten 3-1 at Birmingham. Zenden’s frustration was complete when he was sent off for a second bookable offence later on.

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