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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Khalid Boulahrouz arrives to Chelsea

Khalid Boulahrouz has a scary nickname: the 'Cannibal'. The good news are that he is a Chelsea player now and the rivals will fear his hunger.

As we said, Boulahrouz joins Chelsea from Hamburg with a hard-man reputation Vinnie Jones would have been proud of. If you doubt it, here is Arminia Bielefeld forward Fatmir Vata, who missed three weeks of last season after a tackle by the 24-year-old defender. "Somebody like him shouldn't be allowed to play in the Bundesliga," he said. "He should be sent to prison for a foul like that."

Fortunately for Vata and the rest of German Bundesliga, the Cannibal is no longer their problem. His £6 million move to Stamford Bridge means that it is now Premier League strikers, not to mention referees, who are anxiously eyeing his tough-guy image.

He was targeted by Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho to help to provide cover in defence after a summer which has seen the sales of Asier del Horno and Glen Johnson and continued uncertainty over French defender William Gallas and Robert Huth.

However, Boulahrouz admits that his preference is the centre of defence, though he can also cover at right or left back. With Ashley Cole's move to Chelsea from Arsenal still on hold and Gallas set to be frozen out indefinitely by Mourinho, the Dutch international's flexibility could be crucial.

As for his claims that he once said he would "eat an opponent raw" - comments which gave rise to his menacing nickname - Boulahrouz insists he is just interested in playing fair. "I went to Hamburg when my German was not so good and I tried to explain how I play with my hands," he said. "The next day I opened the paper and saw 'The Cannibal signs until 2008'. But in fact, I never said I try to eat my defender.

"It's just that my philosophy of football is quite simple. I'm a defender and have to do my job, which is to control the strikers and stop them scoring goals. I try to be fair. I don't try to put footballers in hospital because I don't need that."

Chelsea coach Mourinho said that he admired the way Boulahrouz had battled his way up from a small club in Holland. He started under Martin Jol at RKC Waalwijk before joining Hamburg in 2004. Provided that international clearance is received in time, Boulahrouz should figure against Middlesbrough at the Riverside tonight. But Mourinho is again without Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Huth, Geremi, Joe Cole and Petr Cech, who are all injured, and Gallas, who is being left out until his future is clearer.

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