Chelsea icon Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on getting an apology from Jose Mourinho, his frosty relationship with Claudio Ranieri, sharing the punditry studio with Roy Keane and why he’d score ‘tons of goals’ if he was playing today
- Hasselbaink had caught the eye as a pundit but is now back in management
- The former Leeds striker opens up about his relationship with Claudio Ranieri
- Jose Mourinho sold Hasselbaink to Middlesbrough after replacing the Italian
- He admits that his one big career regret is not winning enough major silverware
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has a newborn granddaughter. He also has four daughters. And a wife. So what is it like at home this Christmas?
‘Emotional!’ he booms. ‘Lots of shouting, lots of ups and downs.’
And that’s just you, yes?
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink spoke exclusively to Sportsmail before taking over at Burton Albion
Hasselbaink had been earning a reputation as a funny, straight-talking pundit on Sky Sports
‘No, no, no… I’m staying out of it. I just walk out the door. I sit on the fence.’
It will be one of the few times Hasselbaink has risked splinters. Granddad Jimmy he may now be, but the former Leeds, Chelsea and Holland striker isn’t for mellowing just yet, not at 48.
And, as of Friday night, he was back in management with League One Burton Albion, the appointment coming after his interview with Sportsmail.
It will be television’s loss, for Hasselbaink has caught the eye and the ear in recent months with some feisty exchanges as a pundit on Sky Sports, including one verbal joust with Patrice Evra.
‘He was contradicting himself. I wasn’t being awkward, I just didn’t agree with him,’ says Hasselbaink. The clip went viral online.
The fire, then, is still burning. That much was also obvious by the video – filmed by former Chelsea team-mate John Terry – of Hasselbaink competing in the dads’ race at his daughter’s school sports day. We’ll let him tell the story.
‘I got a good start, I was in front. Then I notice another dad is getting closer. And closer. I think, “I need to dive to win here”. So I get my hands out and shoulders forward. But I end up stumbling and falling over the line. But hey, I won! I made my daughter proud. Just as well I’ll be in the granddad’s race next year though.’
Hasslebaink, you suspect before meeting him, could be moody. He certainly looked it as a player. So how do you ask someone if they are prone to a sulk without, well, risking a sulk? I give him a choice: moody diva or good guy?
‘I am a very brilliant guy,’ he smiles. ‘One thing I am not, I am not moody. Everyone who knows me will say that. I know why you ask. Even my girls say, “Daddy, on the pitch, why are you looking so angry?”.
‘But I’ll tell you something now – I had to be like that. Technically, I was not as good as the others. I had to give myself aggression, make myself angry. It gave me the edge. I needed that to compete at the highest level. Without it, I wouldn’t be the same player.
‘But that moodiness has not overtaken me. I always have a smile on my face. I enjoy life; my family, nice food, a glass of wine. When I am a proper granddad, an old one, I want to say that I lived my life how I wanted to.’
The prolific Dutchman scored 258 times in a senior career spanning the best part of 18 years
The new arrival, then, has not made Hasselbaink feel old just yet.
‘Definitely not,’ he protests. ‘I feel very young. I’m not that happy with my daughter that I’m already a granddad! But no, she’s absolutely beautiful.
‘Unfortunately, because they live in Holland, I’ve only seen her once, so there is a lot of FaceTime. It’s a strange feeling because I still have young girls here – 14, 12 and six – and that definitely keeps me young.
‘But it’s different – my children, I have to take everywhere with me. My granddaughter, I can love, kiss and give her back to mummy!’
Do not be fooled into thinking Hasselbaink has gone soft. We’re talking family, not football.
Get him started on the latter, though, and he’s as hard-hitting as those shots he would leather beyond goalkeepers. He did that 258 times. It is little wonder he is a man of conviction.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich recently celebrated his 1,000th game at the club.
Does Hasselbaink remember the first? The slow, deliberate nod and intake of breath tells you he does, and there is a tale to go with it.
By way of background, Claudio Ranieri was manager in 2003 when the Russian billionaire arrived at Stamford Bridge. Hasselbaink had scored 70 goals over three seasons and was now 31. Chelsea were away at Liverpool on the opening day.
‘A couple of weeks before, I was called into Ranieri’s office. He said I’d always done well for him. But, now he had money to spend, I could look for a new club. I told him I wasn’t going anywhere.
Hasselbaink fires home the winner at Anfield to remind Claudio Ranieri of his worth to Chelsea
The striker has never spoken well of Ranieri but was prolific during his time in charge of Blues
‘He said, “Okay, but I’m going to buy two really good strikers. We want to be champions and you might not play”.
“I said, “Okay, you are entitled to buy two strikers who you think are better than me. But I will end up playing, because you will end up coming back to me”.’
Sure enough, Ranieri turned to substitute Hasselbaink at Anfield. With the score 1-1 on 87 minutes, he collected a pass from Frank Lampard, beat Jamie Carragher and fired into the bottom corner to win the game. He tore off his jersey but wore a frown.
‘In that period Ranieri treated me really badly. He didn’t let me play in a Champions League qualifier. So when I scored, a lot of anger and satisfaction came out. It was an important moment for Abramovich, but it was just as important for me.’
It is fascinating that Hasselbaink has never spoken well of Ranieri the manager, yet arguably played his best football under the Italian. He was Chelsea’s top scorer three times and Premier League Golden Boot winner once, just as he was at Leeds, his first English club.
‘I don’t play for a manager,’ he begins as we explore the contradiction. ‘And when I managed I didn’t expect players to play for me. I did it for myself and my family and I always gave my all.
‘I think the fact Ranieri did end up coming back to me proves that, doesn’t it?’
Hasselbaink remains respectful of a ‘nice man’. He even felt sympathy for Ranieri when midfielder Gus Poyet refused to translate for him in front of the entire squad.
‘It was hard, I felt really awkward. Gustavo was his go-between early on but he wasn’t playing. And then he did that. He was soon gone.’
Come the summer of 2004, Hasselbaink and Ranieri were also gone. Chelsea had finished second in Abramovich’s first season and Hasselbaink was again top scorer, despite Ranieri paying £32million for Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu. But along came Jose Mourinho.
‘Mourinho wanted to use me as an example, that’s how he managed. He wanted to show that he could let big players go. I was still top scorer, even though two really good strikers had signed that season.
Hasselbaink scored 13 Premier League goals for Middlesbrough in 2005-06 after being sold
‘Mourinho wanted to show who was boss, and I was the one he used. Yes, Chelsea then won the league, but I could have added to the team that year.
‘But Mourinho has always done that. He’s doing it now with Dele Alli at Spurs. That’s how he manages. That’s how he gets success. You can’t fault him.’
Mourinho did later admit to Hasselbaink he was wrong, especially given he outscored all of Chelsea’s strikers in the colours of Middlesbrough the following season.
It would appear there is no grudge, however, not with Hasselbaink fancying Mourinho’s Spurs as more realistic title winners than Chelsea this year.
‘I said a couple of months back Chelsea aren’t contenders and people reacted to it, but I still don’t think they are. They are building. Let them build.
‘Mourinho is a serial winner. Spurs have everything, this is the best chance they’ve ever had.’
Hasselbaink feels Tottenham have their best-ever chance of winning the Premier League
He believes Jose Mourinho is making an example of Dele Alli like he did to him at Chelsea
So how would Hasselbaink fare in today’s game? I suggest that the need for strikers to press the opposition would not be to his liking.
‘I don’t agree that I didn’t press,’ he snaps back. ‘I did. But it was calculated pressing.’
‘Anyway, I think I would score tons of goals now. Tons and tons and tons.’
‘Because I could bully the modern-day centre-back, easily. Most of them just want to pass the ball. They don’t actually want to defend. I would back myself against them, every time.’
That same inner belief means Hasselbaink will be backing himself ahead of his return to the dugout with Burton. Two-and-a-half years have passed since his sacking at League One Northampton. Before that he won the League Two title with Burton and had a less enjoyable spin at QPR.
‘The job is totally different from the first time, but we are coming in to try as quickly as possible to get us up the league and keep ourselves in League One – that’s our aim and first and foremost that’s what we will be trying to do.’
So back to management it is heading into 2021. Oh, and property development, including renovation work on his own house. Hasselbaink shows me a pile of boxes inside his Surrey home.
‘My wife is demanding I run around everywhere. She is in her element! You see these boxes, I need to sort them now. I just do as I’m told.’
Hasselbaink admitted his biggest regret was not winning enough major silverware in his career
Hasselbaink is back in management two-and-a-half years after Northampton sacked him
Perhaps that explains why Hasselbaink arrived late for a recent appearance on Super Sunday. Of all the co-pundits, it was Roy Keane left waiting. He laughs at memory of Keane suggesting on air that he should be fined two weeks’ wages.
‘It was the first time I’ve been in his company properly. People have this perception of him, but he is very funny. He was tough as hell as an opponent. He would never smile, but what an excellent player.’
Hasselbaink’s debut for Chelsea was against Manchester United in the Charity Shield. He scored in a 2-0 win. Keane was sent off.
‘I don’t think I’ll be reminding him of that, do you? Not when he can say, “Jimmy, how many titles have you won?”.’
And that is Hasselbaink’s biggest regret. He was an FA Cup runner-up with Chelsea and Cardiff, likewise with Middlesbrough in the UEFA Cup and Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.
‘Chelsea signed me to win the league (a joint British record £15million from Atletico). In that respect, I failed. We didn’t even get close.
‘Mourinho later apologised for letting me go. But I’d rather not have that apology. I’d prefer the Premier League winners’ medal.’
For now, Hasselbaink can take consolation from his school sports day prize – and Granddad Jimmy isn’t done on that score just yet.
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