90′s Time Tunnel: Winston Bogarde
This week I am looking at a player that, in all fairness, could still be on the books of Chelsea Football Club and no-one would actually notice. To call him a player in the Premier League would be an overstatement as, for one reason of another, he never actually got to play. I am talking about Winston Bogarde. One of the unluckiest, but luckiest, men in English football history.
In 1988, he started his career in his native Holland, signing professional terms at second division side Schiedamse Voetbal Vereniging. He actually started off his footballing life as a winger, and moved to the Eredivisie side Sparta, with a loan move to another second division side Excelsior in between the two.
He scored an amazing eleven goals in the 1993-94 season, guiding Sparta to the Intertoto Cup (remember that?). This lead him to sign for Dutch giants AFC Ajax in the following summer. He had a slow first season, not getting off the bench in their fantastic run to UEFA Champions League glory, but this was then followed by a solid few seasons at Ajax, becoming a defensive stalwart, even becoming a regular in Guus Hiddink’s Holland side for Euro 96, where he was in the side that was thumped 4-1 by England. Not really a highlight, but it pays to remind everyone that we did wallop Holland once upon a time.
It only went up and up from then, signing for Italian giants AC Milan in 1997 – but that never really got off the ground, only making three appearances for them before he joined Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch revolution at FC Barcelona in January of 1998.
Barcelona back then pretty much had the entire Holland squad at their disposal in 1998, with the likes of Kluivert, Reiziger, Cocu, Zenden et al. He was a permanent fixture in the second half of his first season as Barca won La Liga and the Copa Del Rey. He was also picked once again for the national side, but was a back-up defender to Artur Numan and when he got his chance to replace suspended Numan in the World Cup semi-final against Brazil, he sustained a serious shin injury in training, and had to be replaced by Philip Cocu.
As the Dutch influence dwindled, so did his first team chances, as he only managed one first team appearance in his first full season. He bounced back in his second season, appearing twenty-one times, before his big move to Premier League side Chelsea in 2000.
Here’s where it gets weird.
He was signed on the recommendation of fellow Dutchman at the club Mario Melchiot, and was signed on a ridiculously high for the time £40,000 a week. However, the manager Gianluca Vialli did not know of the transfer at the time – as it was made by director of football Colin Hutchinson. He was brought in and Vialli left shortly after (not because of this) and Claudio Ranieri was brought in. Ranieri didn’t want him, so he was surplus to requirements after being there a short amount of time.
Bogarde knew that no one else was going to offer that amount of wage at the time, so decided to sit out his contract and collect the extortionate wage that he was being given, even though his value as a player went through the floor due to the fact he simply was not playing – at all. He was quoted at saying;
“Why should I throw fifteen million Euros away when it is already mine? At the moment I signed, it was in fact my money, my contract.”
He still trained with the squad every day, and saw out his contract to the letter despite Chelsea’s attempts to get rid of him. They tried to offload him because of his ridiculous wages, but he was not budging. They demoted him to the reserves and made him train with the youth team in an effort to force him to leave. Alas, no movement from the sturdy Dutchman. He did become a figure of ridicule for his selfishness and willingness to not play and keep his high wages. He didn’t even live in London, and he used to fly in and out to training. He did get some game time for the Blues, playing eleven times for them in FOUR YEARS. That is insane if you really think about it. A Dutch international, a man who played for the likes of AC Milan and Barcelona joining a club and effectively ruining his own career in order to keep his extortionate wages. You have to admire his balls, to take all the slings and arrows and wanting to honour his contract.
He left in November 2005, announcing his retirement from football when he failed to reach an agreement with Chelsea.
It didn’t really get any better for Winston, being declared bankrupt in 2011 and then released a book called ‘This N****r Bows for No One’. No, I’m not joking.
So let’s close one the most bizarre chapters in Premier League history. Four years, eleven appearances, no goals, picking up £8 million in wages. I will leave you with a quote from the man on why he decided to sit out his Chelsea deal.
‘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.’
What a lad.