He played in the world cup finals with the netherlands, was once brought to chelsea FC from hamburger SV by jose mourinho, but has also had very difficult times at vfb stuttgart. In an interview with dpa, the 30-year-old defender talks about his eventful career – and about the upcoming european championship duel with the german team.
You lost 3-0 to the german team in november, and in the years before that, you lost all the crucial games against portugal. Did you ever think after the draw: this european championship could also be over again quickly for the netherlands?
Khalid boulahrouz: "you can really discuss this group to the point of no return. The whole world has an opinion about it. But for me it’s quite simple: what’s written on paper doesn’t pay. 2008 italy went to the european championship as world champion. And then we clearly beat them on the pitch."
Then let me ask you a more serious question: what is in it for the netherlands at this european championship?? Has your team improved since it reached the final of the 2010 world cup??
Boulahrouz: "our development started in 2008, when we played outstanding football under marco van basten. When bert van marwijk came in, the team already had a very good foundation. Until then we were known for playing very early and achieving very little. But now we know exactly what we have to do to win the games we’re not so good at. We’re strong, we’ve become even more experienced and mature since 2010, but I still see opportunities for us to improve."
What does that mean for the european championship??
Boulahrouz: "of course i want to be european champion. We have all the building blocks to play a good tournament."
You personally joined HSV in the bundesliga for the first time in 2004. Back then, german fubball still looked enviously at holland, but now great talents like mario gotze or mesut ozil are emerging here as well. How have you followed this development?
Boulahrouz: "when i came here, the game was still really german. That’s not meant in a negative way, every country has its own identity. But I still know that I arrived here with 75 kilos and suddenly had to play against jan koller. At that time there was no gotze and no reus. The change came with the 2006 world cup. You can see that just by looking at how the nationalelf is playing now. It has young and creative players who are no longer just fighting players. And if things don’t go so well, they still have their mental strength and their two-fighting ability. That’s a good mixture. I like that very much."
After three disappointing years in stuttgart things are going well for you again this season. What has changed for you at vfb?? Is it just the trust that bruno labbadia has in you??
Boulahrouz: "i could make it easy for myself and say: we now have a coach who has an understanding of fubball. Before, we had a coach (christian gross) whose philosophy I didn’t like. But you have to see the whole story. And it’s important to me that our fans know my version of it, too."
Boulahrouz: "my beginning in stuttgart was very hard. I was told: you get a lot of time. But probably some people underestimated my situation, because this time was not given to me (boulahrouz’ prematurely born daughter died in 2008 one month before his change/anm.). I signed a contract, the club paid a lot of money for me – everybody expects you to perform well. But I had other things on my mind at the time. I had lost my daughter, I had a family that was in a very bad way, and I didn’t have time for myself to deal with it. I always chased this start."
They were criticized from the start, had a hard time with the fans because of their million-dollar salaries, and played mostly in the unloved position of right-back, if at all.
Boulahrouz: "some things I would like to get out of the way. It was written about me that I never wanted to play right defender and that I only came here to collect money. But the fact is: stuttgart called me. I signed the contract that vfb offered me. In the time under big I even wanted to go back to holland for much less money – nobody ever wrote that. But I have been patient, never said anything bad about vfb, and always tried to behave correctly. Now I feel very comfortable here."
What part does bruno labbadia play in this??
Boulahrouz: "when he came, the sun shone again for me. He has a clear philosophy. For me, someone is a coach when he can give a team a philosophy and make some players better. Labbadia can. His exercises and his thoughts even remind me a bit of the dutch school."
How to work with jose mourinho? He took you to chelsea.
Boulahrouz: "you must think of mourinho as a father. He protects each of his players. His secret is that the players will go through fire for him. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll give you an example: when a player got a red card and was suspended for a long time, he told him: