IT is standard for Dutch footballers to be frank conversationalists. The only sour note for Derk Boerrigter as he moved from Ajax to Celtic this week, however, was the lack of Frank conversation.
The Amsterdam club’s manager Frank de Boer had oodles of good things to say about the left winger he parted with for around £2m when speaking to one Scottish newspaper the other day. It was an entirely different story when it came to saying good things to the 26-year-old himself. De Boer, who brought the Ajax youth player back to the club two years ago, benched him for the closing months of last season and is said to have believed Boerrigter carried more psychological than physical scars from a stress fracture in his back in late 2011.
“Did he [de Boer] speak to me [when I left]? Not at all,” said Boerrigter. “He didn’t wish me luck or anything.
“In the beginning, I had a lot of credits, but it seems I spilled them all. I have no idea what went wrong and I’m disappointing with how it ended. At the start at Ajax, I scored many goals and made it to the national team before the injury brought things down.”
He continued: “When I finally got fit again, I wasn’t really fit. I am fast and quick on my feet, but having been out for two months, I didn’t feel that fast anymore. I was also a little scared at the time that a defender would kick me in the back. Eventually, I got over that, but I was on the bench by then. It gives me extra motivation, for sure. I want to succeed and it would be nice if we could draw Ajax in the Champions League.
“It’s hard to believe anyone could think the injuries were in my head because, if you see the scans, you could see a clear crack in my back. You can say as much as you want, but the evidence was there and I felt it.
“It was a stress fracture in the beginning, but we didn’t realise that, so I kept playing and playing taking painkillers. One day before I had to report to the national team [in November 2011], I got a kick on my back and that was it. It snapped. I played with a stress fracture in my back for two months.”
That injury may have cured, but his reputation has never been truly rehabilitated – despite his being a title winner in each of the past two seasons, featuring in ten of the club’s Champions League group games in that time (he was injured for the other two) and scoring in the Bernabeu in the competition. As soon as news of his move appeared over the weekend, the Dutch football Twitterati told Celtic supporters their club was about to sign a player never fully fit. It was even claimed he acquired the nickname “Sicknote”.
“It’s unfair,” said Boerrigter. “Last year I played 30 games and didn’t have one injury. If you check my career out, every team I played for I played over 30 matches [every season – a claim that checks out]. And only in my first season at Ajax did I have a big injury – in my back. I cracked a bone in my back – twice. That might have kept me out for a couple of months, but it was the only serious injury I got.”
The injury was serious enough for his Celtic medical to appear to become a two-day event that started on Monday, but did not conclude until the next morning. Boerrigter, though, claimed he was never worried when the Scottish champions waited for scan results to be confirmed overnight. “Celtic wanted to be sure my back was okay,” Boerrigter said. “And I knew it was okay because I played 30 games.
“At 5pm on Monday night in Edinburgh, I had to see a doctor who checked me and said I was perfectly fine. A doctor in London then had to look at the scans and he said the same. In Holland they say I get injured very easily, but they don’t seem to know how many games I played. It’s totally unfair.”
The fact Boerrigter hasn’t spent more time on the treatment table is no thanks to Celtic’s other recent Dutch signing Virgil van Dijk. Yesterday the £2m buy from Groningen tweeted a picture of him clattering his new team-mate when the pair were pitted against each other at their last postings. “I still remember that game,” said Boerrigter. “It was in the Amsterdam Arena and he should have had the red card for that.
“I hadn’t spoken to him much in Holland. I didn’t know him back then, but when you come here it’s nice to have someone else to speak your own language to sometimes. So of course I met him and he is a great guy.
“Did I kick him back? Normally I would. But I shouldn’t say that.”
Unlike his former manager, though, Boerrigter clearly believes it is good to talk.