Today marks the birthday of one of the greatest strikers to have played in the Premier League, though one who probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves these days.
Former Leeds United, Chelsea and Middlesbrough forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s last experience in England may well have resulted in an unfortunate sacking in his role as QPR manager, though let’s not forget how much of a staple he was amid Premier League goals between 1997 and 2007.
The Dutchman, who joined Leeds United in the late 90s, is a two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, and played a major part in establishing Chelsea as a force just before the Roman Abramovich money poured into the club. Despite some initial struggles on these shores, the former Atletico Madrid forward is a bona fide goal-scoring legend in England.
Noted for his ability to beat almost anyone across 10-yards, undeterred by the fact he never boasted genuine searing pace, Hasselbaink is undoubtedly one of the most powerful strikers of a ball to have played amongst the English elite. In fact, Tom Sheen of the Independent wrote he ‘possessed one of the best strikes ever seen at Stamford Bridge, was an expert free-kick taker’, as the Suriname-born marksman helped himself to 127 Premier League goals.
He trails only Thierry Henry and countryman Robin van Persie in terms of foreign imports to have plundered as many goals on these shores, though is often forgotten about when discussing such clinical legends. Perhaps that’s because he played in a Chelsea side still getting to grips with their cosmopolitan identity as they struggled to convert the winds of change into genuine trophies.
Runner-up medals in the FA Cup and the Premier League, as well as a UEFA Cup one during his time with Middlesbrough, are pretty much all of the team success he has to show for his decade in the English elite. Still, that’s missing the point, JFH was so much more than that.
70 goals in four seasons for the Blues as they matured into the club Abramovich would lead them to be helped keep them relevant, despite the lack of silverware to make its way to west London at the time.
Paired with either Gianfranco Zola or Eidur Gudjohnssen in the Chelsea attack, he was a popular figure in SW6. Always seeming to play with a smile on his face, Hasselbaink gave the Blues a potent and palpable goal threat, as well as possessing the technical ability to drop a bit deeper to orchestrate play. In fact, both he and Gudjohnssen proved such a wonderful pairing, Zola was forced to miss out at times.
Though he spent just one season under the Russian tycoon, he scored 18 times in the league, holding off new arrivals Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo to become the top scorer for the third time in four years.
So, it’s fair to say Hasselbaink had quite the impact on the complexion of Chelsea’s transformation. On today, his birthday, it’s time to celebrate the man for what he really was, both a wonderful talent and a charismatic individual.
While he will have scored more important goals as they one below, this thunderous free-kick for Middlesbrough against Manchester City is indicative of the power he possessed in both his feet.
Thank you for the memories, Jimmy.