'Cannibal' denies deceit in Hamburg

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The Independent Online

Khalid Boulahrouz is denying claims in Germany that he faked an injury to secure his dream move to Chelsea. Boulahrouz completed his £7m transfer to Chelsea on Monday and goes straight into the squad for tonight's game at Middlesbrough.

SV Hamburg were happy with the price they received for the Netherlands defender, but Boulahrouz left under a cloud. He pulled out of a Champions' League qualifier two weeks ago, when he claimed to have suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up.

The German club later suspected that Chelsea had by then been in touch and did not want him to play in the tie against Osasuna because it would rule him out of their European campaign.

Boulahrouz, 24, said: "Nobody is in a position to say such things. I had pain and could not play. That is the end of it. Everybody could see it. I have been suffering since our training camp and HSV knew all about that."

Hamburg's technical director, Dietmar Beiersdorfer, claimed that Boulahrouz was "not an easy character" but the defender hit back after arriving at Chelsea, saying: "I played at Hamburg for two years. I'm always honest. I don't like lies and I want other people to be honest with me.

"That's what I did and the technical director never told me I was a difficult person. So it's a surprise that he said this. I'm now at Chelsea and I have enjoyed it very much. Hamburg for me is in the past now."

Boulahrouz is of Moroccan descent but was born in the Netherlands and has played 15 times for the Dutch. He left the illustrious Ajax youth system and made his name at unfashionable RKC Waalwijk under the current Tottenham Hotspur head coach, Martin Jol, at Waalwijk before Hamburg moved in for him two years ago.

Mourinho said: "Khalid is the kind of person I admire. Life was not easy for him and to be here as a 24-year-old he had to go through the process from a small club and then to Germany and the national team.

"Now he is at one of the best clubs in the world at the moment. He did that because of hard work, ambition, confidence and quality."

Boulahrouz has a reputation as a fearsome tackler and was nicknamed "Khalid the Cannibal" when he played in Germany, but he insists he does not go out to hurt players.

Boulahrouz said: "Nicknames are always a little bit over the top. I went to Hamburg and my German was not so good. So I tried to explain with my hands and show some moves how I am on the pitch. The next day I opened the paper and it said 'The Cannibal signs contract until 2008'. I didn't say I eat my attackers."

Boulahrouz made an instant impression on referees in the Bundesliga, collecting nine bookings and a red card in his first season.

He was sent off for the Dutch in the World Cup against Portugal and was accused of deliberately trying to injure Cristiano Ronaldo.

Boulahrouz said: "My philosophy of football is quite easy. I go on the pitch and play only to win. I'm a defender so I have to do my job and that's to control the striker so he doesn't score goals. I try to play fair. I don't usually put somebody in the hospital or elbow somebody in the head. I don't like that because I don't need to do that. I try to control my player with fair play."

Boulahrouz has been given the No 9 shirt at Chelsea vacated by Hernan Crespo who has left for Internazionale. The defender said: "It's a bit strange but when I'm playing I don't feel the number I have on the back. I used to play striker but I'm not a striker now. It doesn't change anything."

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