It’s easy to forget just how sensationally good Pierre van Hooijdonk really was. Amid the extreme mardiness at Nottingham Forest and the ugly contract wrangles at Celtic, the brilliant Dutchman was one of the finest talents of his generation.
He scored an incredible 335 goals in 551 games, including at least a goal every other game for seven clubs between 1991 and 2005. He could hit a free kick as sweetly as David Beckham. He was quick and strong and could tear defences apart. We should all take a moment to remember just how special van Hooijdonk really was.
NAC Breda – 1991-1995
Having made his professional bow for RBC Roosendaal, he joined boyhood club NAC Breda in 1991 for 400,000 guilders. In four years there, he scored 81 goals and built a reputation as one of Europe’s brightest young talents.
Celtic – 1995-97
Scotland seemed an unlikely destination for van Hooijdonk but he quickly made himself at home in the SPL, scoring a shed load of goals for the Hoops and endearing himself to the Parkhead faithful. But despite his exploits, Celtic couldn’t break Rangers’ grip on the league - and the Dutchman’s frustrations boiled over in the 1996/97 season when he claimed the £7,000 a week rise he was being offered might be “good enough for the homeless but not an international striker”. During his time in Glasgow, he wore some fantastic classic-of-the-genre Umbro shirts.
Nottingham Forest – 1997-99
When Forest splurged £4.5m on van Hooijdonk they were in all sorts of trouble – bottom of the Premier League and seemingly destined for relegation. The striker’s arrival was supposed to ignite a revival but in the end he failed to have the impact the club had envisaged and Forest duly finished bottom. The following season was special for van Hooijdonk though, scoring 34 goals as the Tricky Trees returned to the top flight at the first time of asking. What should have been an opportunity to prove he was good enough to score goals in the Premier League the following season turned into a nightmare, though – with key players sold and a lack of recruitment to plug the gaps, van Hooijdonk went on strike, refusing to play in the hope he’d be sold. He eventually returned to action in November – but the writing was on the City Ground wall as Forest were again relegated.
Vitesse Arnhem – 1999-2000
His time in England came to an end in summer 1999, when he returned to Holland to play for Vitesse. If there were any doubts as to his quality, they were quickly vanquished as he helped himself to 25 goals and propelled his unfashionable side into the UEFA Cup.
Benfica – 2000-01
A year in Lisbon followed, with van Hooijdonk teaming up with former Celtic team-mate Jorge Cadete. But, despite his 18 goals, it was a largely unhappy time at the Stadium of Light, with three managers coming and going, and the chairman openly criticising the Dutchman.
Feyenoord – 2001-03
His crowning season at De Kuip was in 2001/02 when he led Feyenoord to an unlikely Uefa Cup triumph, lining up alongside a young Robin van Persie. Van Hooijdonk scored in every knockout round, including two goals in the final against Borussia Dortmund, one a trademark free-kick.
Fenerbahce – 2003-05
Two seasons in Turkey yielded 32 goals and two league championships for van Hooijdonk, who became a darling of the Fenerbahce fans.
NAC Breda – 2005-06
An emotional return to NAC came in 2005 but by now his powers were waning, scoring only five goals in 17 games.
Feyenoord – 2006-07
During the winter transfer window of the 2005/06 season, van Hooijdonk re-joined another old club – Feyenoord – scoring eight goals in 37 appearances. His final match as a professional came on 13 May 2007.
Holland – 1994-2004
During his ten years with the national team, he scored 14 goals in 46 games, representing the Oranje in the 1998 World Cup, and Euro 2000 and Euro 2004.
When the time came to hang up his boots, he could look back on a near-two decade career littered with superb goals and brilliant moments – not to mention the odd strop.
Goed gedaan, Pierre.