I spent longer than I should have deciding whether to call them forwards or strikers.
Diego Costa is a divisive figure amongst Chelsea fans at the moment, and quite rightly. Where once there would be chants of “Diego” ringing around the Bridge, if he were to play another game, the reaction would be a lot different thanks to his antics this past weekend where he filmed himself in an Atletico shirt partying in Brazil. To be fair to Costa, he didn’t want to leave and has said as much, it is very much Conte who is forcing this issue. On Conte’s side, you have the fact that in January we were running clear in the league and Diego Costa decides to try and piss things up the wall by demanding a move to China. He eventually calmed down but the damage was done. Conte doesn’t want an unreliable personality in the dressing room.
It would be a massive loss for Chelsea though, no matter who we get in. Strikers have long been a poisoned chalice at the Bridge. From Shevchenko to Torres, world class forwards have turned up and wilted, for whatever reason. Back in 2003 though, we had two (two!) of the very best in the league.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
He of the psychotic personality and massive backside. Quite possibly, our most consistent goalscorer of the past 20 years. He made his name in England in 97/98 with Leeds, scoring on his debut and going on to score 26 goals the first season and 18 league goals the next. A terrific effort by what was then an unknown quantity. Alleged pay disputes led to JFH leaving for Atletico in ’99 and again, he flourished there despite Atletico managing to get themselves relegated, only four years after winning the double in Spain.
Along we came, and 15m quid later, he was ours. A goal on his “debut” in the Charity Shield helped us put away Man Utd and he and Gudjohnsen were supposed to lead us to title glory, or at the very least a challenge. Our hilarious away form led to us stuttering our way to a disappointing season but Hasselbaink was undeterred, scoring 23 league goals in his debut season, a feat that, if done today, would have people throwing flowers at his feet, or something. The next season was just as productive, with he and his partner in crime scoring 52 goals between them, playing some wonderful football along the way. Inexplicably, Hasselbaink became third choice the season after, Zola was the main man with JFH limited to a lot of substitute appearances. This led to a fee being agreed with Barcelona to take him back to Spain in January. Fortunately, the deal collapsed and although Hasselbaink was no longer first choice, he still managed a more than respectable 15 goals.
Qualifying for the Champions League, coupled with the arrival or a Roman and his expensive new recruits such as Crespo and Mutu was supposed to signify the end of JFH at Chelsea. However, personal issues for both of the above led to Jimmy being given another chance to prove himself, one which he would grasp with both hands as yet again he was our top scorer. The summer would bring around more changes with Jose Mourinho replacing the disappointing Claudio a Ranieri. Hasselbaink was confident that his previous seasons form, coupled with the fact that Crespo was on the way back to Italy on loan and Mutu was a massive druggy would see him given another chance. It was not to be. Mourinho brought in both Mateja Kezman and Didier Drogba, to differing levels of success and wanted more than just a pure goalscorer. Hasselbaink was shipped out, much to his dismay.
Off to Teeside he went, finishing his first season as top goalscorer for the Boro, helping them qualify for the Europa League which is where he helped Boro qualify for the final, with some epic comebacks along the way. 18 goals were to follow in this, his final season at Boro. Personal differences with Gareth Southgate saw JFH leave and head back to London, this time with Charlton. Age and a post Curbishley hangover led to a very disappointing end to Hasselbainks Premier League career, only managing the 4 goals in all competitions whilst at The Valley. A short stay at Cardiff rounded out his playing career.
After studying his coaching in England it was off to Belgium to begin his managerial career. A successful stay at Antwerp coupled with many appearances on TalkSport led to him being linked with lots of English jobs. Hasselbaink himself stated he wanted a Premier League club, so it was a surprise to see him rock up at Burton Albion in 2014. Hasselbaink continued Burton’s rise, leading them to promotion to League One and then the very top of League one itself at the time of his departure to QPR. No one really enjoys managing QPR at the moment and unfortauntely, JFH was the same. It really is a poisoned chalice and has swallowed up more experienced managers than Jimmy so it was no surprise to see him last just 11 months. In between all of the above Hasselbaink has popped up doing punditry on ITV, showcasing his football brain. He is likely to be back in English football before long and hopefully so. He, to me, was our greatest goalscorer of any period from 1990 to 2004. No one was as consistent and no one could the ball as hard!
Next week, the Iceman cometh.