Drenthe: "I ballooned to 96 kilos then dropped to 74 in 8 months"
It's been 12 years since Royston Drenthe signed for Real Madrid. After retiring from the game, he's back and enjoying his football once again with Sparta Rotterdam.
It's been 12 years since Royston Drenthe signed for Real Madrid. After retiring from the game, he's back and enjoying his football with his hometown team Sparta in the Dutch Second Division. He told AS: "My head's now where it needs to be, I'm happy".
A lot of people in Spain wonder what happened to you. How's life treating you?
Good, I'm relaxed. People need to know that my life is nothing like it was when I signed Madrid. I'm a father now. I have five daughters and a son. My son's eight years old now and he's happy to see his dad playing professionally. I'm playing in Rotterdam, where I was born. Everyone knows I played for Feyenoord, but Feyenoord is in the south part of Rotterdam and I'm from the north part, where Sparta play. It's a new life for me. I still run my businesses - I've got a bar, a perfumery and a gym. Things are going well for me. My head's where it needs to be, I'm focused on my profession. I'm older and I know what I have to do. I'm happy.
Your father was murdered when you were just three years old and your mother protected you by telling you he died in an accident... how can someone deal with something like that?
I was only a kid, but my mum, whenever the subject of my father comes up... it's like she had her heart ripped out. My father was 27 when he died. My mother is very sensitive. When she gets angry I leave her alone for a while then I call her (laughs). I made her quit her job. Now she designs all of the interiors in my houses!
The other day you scored a brilliant direct free-kick against Telstar. You haven't lost your touch!
I'm 31 and to continue playing means looking after yourself. It's not like when I was 20 and at Real Madrid - I'd eat a hamburger if I wanted to and I didn't care. The next day you wouldn't notice it. But now if I eat badly for a week and don't sleep well.... I wouldn't be able to train with those 18-year-old kids! I look after myself and I follow a diet. I was out of the game for a couple of years.
At one point you weighed 95 kilos...
Or more, 96 kilos. Seeing as I own a gym, my business partners - who are also friends of mine, made me train hard and put me on a diet. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. When I got home I couldn't move. I made myself ill by exercising so hard. But I didn't want to throw in the towel until I could see for myself that I was back in shape. I'm back down to 74 kilos. I lost 22 kilos in eight months. Not many people can do that.
What made you decide to 'retire' at 29?
I knew that, even though I was playing, I couldn't show my ability. It was a psychological block. Mentally, I was lying to myself. I've never been a weak person, but I didn't have the strength to go from hotel to hotel, to have the coach telling me this and that... I thought it would be better for me to retire from the game and spend more time with my kids. I like football but if it's making me feel sad... why bother playing? And something always seemed to happen to me at all of the clubs I've played at. At one club I wasn't being paid, and in others... Bah, it was crap.
So basically you eventually ended up hating football?
It did get to that. I've seen things in the football world that you wouldn't believe...
Some people suggest you've returned to the game because of financial problems...
What I earn here with Sparta isn't enough to support my wife and kids. I don't earn very much but I've never had financial problems. The only time I've had a problem with money was when someone stole from me.
Ajax versus Real Madrid
Moving on to other things. Here we are in Rotterdam, where there is a great rivalry with Amsterdam... What can we expect from Ajax against Madrid tonight?
Ajax are a quality side - believe me. Madrid will need to be very careful. Ajax have young players who are excellent - like De Jong and Ziyech, who are the kind of players who might seem there aren't in the game, then they'll suddenly pop up and score.
Is De Jong worth the 86 million euro fee Barça have paid for him?
Frenkie reminds me a bit of Xavi when I was playing in Spain. He has that same way of moving, he knows what he is going to do even before he gets the ball... He's a very good player now but once he gets to Barcelona and plays on that pitch, he's going to be one of the best players around.
Having Mourinho as your boss
Mourinho, who was your coach at Real Madrid, always ends up falling out with his players - Pogba, Casillas... Can you understand why Iker and Mou fell out?
I can understand why, sure. Because Mourinho always wants to show that he is the boss of the team. You know right from the start that a coach is the boss. I think his way of working, being hard, is good, because I've seen other coaches and you wouldn't know if they were coaches or kids. A little bit of personality is fine, but you also need to understand the difference between being a coach and being a player. Every team has their star players and those stars shouldn't act all big-headed, the coach meanwhile, sometimes has to look the other way and let things go. I spent three years in the same team as Iker and I never had a problem with him. I got on really well with Guti and also Raúl. I never had any problems with any of those players.
What advice would you give Vinicius, who has joined Madrid as a teenager like you did?
He's still only a young lad. He needs to do what he thinks is best and he needs someone beside him, his father or his agent - people who are always there to guide him. He needs people who are not there for the money but who are there to look out for him.
To take care of him?
No. No one needs to take care of him. He needs to be a man because out on the pitch, nobody is going to help him. If Ramos sees that he's not a man, he'll say to the coach: "Hey boss, this player's no good!". Vinicius has to be himself. But the others can help him not to make mistakes. He's still young - but he's got a lot of quality, he's got golden feet. We'll see if he's still delivering for Madrid in three to four years' time. Few players manage to do that - like Sergio.