The early years of Bolo Zenden

At the age of 11, Bolo Zenden was already considered a bright talent and a potential top player in Dutch football. Dutch club MVV Maastricht took him away from amateur club Leonidas in 1985 and two years later Zenden joined the youth academy of Philips Sport Vereniging or PSV as it's more commonly called. 13 days after his 18th birthday, the winger made his official debut for PSV's first team.

Zenden travelled from Maastricht to Eindhoven by train every day when he was in the youth team of PSV. During these trips, he used his time to study. Later, as a professional player, Zenden kept on studying besides playing football. He specialised in Spanish and Public Relations.

In football, Zenden showed he was fast as a bullet and focused on goal. He was therefore often compared with former Ajax and Arsenal winger Marc Overmars. Just like Overmars, Zenden is a very determined player, a real professional.

Zenden is the son of sports commentator Pierre Zenden, who covers big judo matches. The family Zenden runs a sports gym in Maastricht, where Bolo once grew out to be the biggest judo talent in the provence Limburg (in the south of the Netherlands). Because of his judo skills, Zenden developed a solid basis to stand firm on as a football player. As a judoka he learned to receive and give, and he learned the right way to fall on the ground. The result: Zenden has a perfect control over his body and hardly ever gets injured.

In the season 1994-95, Zenden's breaktrough in the first squad leads to the departure of young and talented winger Peter Hoekstra (later with Stoke City). But the arrival of trainer Dick Advocaat puts him back on the bench. His definitive breakthrough in Dutch top football comes when midfielder Jan Wouters leaves PSV in 1996. In 1997 Zenden is voted Best Young Player in the Dutch Eredivisie by his colleagues over promising players like his very own team-mates  Ronaldo and Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen. One year later he is voted the best player in his fourth and last season at PSV.

During the summer of 1998 he shows all of his ability during the World Cup in France, in which the Dutch finish 4th, unlucky to be eliminated from the semi-finals after a penalty shoot-out against Brazil. Zenden's only goal in the competition is in Netherlands' 1-2 defeat by Croatia in the 3rd place play-off and rather amusingly he tries to do an acrobatic jump that doesn't quite work out, resulting in him throwing himself head first to the ground.

Zenden's infamous sommersault that failed a bit embarassingly in the 3rd place play-off at 1998 World Cup. 

The 22-year-old Dutchman makes his first big move of his career when he joins Barcelona after the World Cup. In his 2nd season he wins the Primera Liga title, but disappoiment waited in the wings in the summer when Netherlands are knocked out again in the semi-finals of an international competition, this time in Euro 2000 against Italy where Netherlands amazingly misses two penalties in normal time and three in the penalty shoot-out! 

Zenden plays 89 games in three years before being sold to Chelsea for 7,5 million pounds in the summer of 2001. Zenden struggles at Chelsea despite playing 59 games and scoring 4 goals. He is loaned to Middlesbrough in the 2003-2004 season. He scores Middlesbrough's winning goal vs. Bolton in the Coca Cola Cup final from the penalty spot and plays well enough to earn him an additional one-year-contract sparking speculation he might go to a bigger club if he continued to play well at Boro.

Zenden is voted Boro's supporters' player of the year in the 2004-2005 season and as Liverpool come calling Zenden jumps on board, after his contract with Boro expires. Boudewijn Zenden will undoubtedly be of good use to Rafa as Liverpool have lot of games ahead and he has considerable experience of Premiership football.

Zenden's career details from 1987-1998 - Source: the PSV book 'Voor Rood Wit Gezongen', written by Frans van den Nieuwenhof. Our thanks to Dutch journalist Ramon Min at AD Sportswereld to provide us with this info.

Zenden career details from 1998-2005 -

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