Former Everton man Andy van der Meyde on drink, drugs and zebras

Wasted: A BBC Radio 5 live special

  • Date: Tuesday, 8 January & Wednesday, 9 January
  • Start: 21:45 GMT

Playing at Ajax with the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael van der Vaart, Dutch winger Andy van der Meyde was one of the most promising players of his generation a decade ago.

But after a difficult spell with Inter Milan he joined Everton, where his life spiralled out of control through a vicious cycle of personal problems and alcohol.

After being released by Everton in 2009 he also turned to drugs.

Now retired, Van der Meyde, 33, has spoken to BBC Radio 5 live as part of the two-part 'Wasted' series. Part one airs on Tuesday, 8 January at 21:45 GMT.

Van der Meyde on the start of his problems:

"I didn't go out until my second year in Italy when I knew I wasn't going to play anymore. For me it was like a get-away so I went out and drank and I wasn't thinking about football.

"I was depressed, I wasn't playing anymore."

On a footballer's life:

"There is no limit anymore, you can do what you want. You are almost like a God to the fans and when they see you in the street they recognise you and want autographs.

"It's like you are the king. You get a lot of money and it comes easy."

On his affair:

Andy van der Meyde

Van der Meyde won 18 Netherlands caps

"I said to my ex-wife that I wanted to go to a hotel because I was injured at the time and I needed some rest. But that was not the case - I was just cheating on her.

"After one week I was going home all the time and getting more clothes and she thought something was not right. She tried to follow me with cars but I was driving a little too quick so they couldn't get me.

"The next time I came home they put a sensor in the car that they could follow me easily and it led to the apartment where I was living in Liverpool. I lived on the top floor and you could see everything I was doing.

"A private detective had videos and photos of me and my new girlfriend and then my wife rang me and said 'How's your new girlfriend?'. I was still denying it then."

On his issues at Everton:

"It was because of a lot of reasons. I left my family and my kids because they weren't in England and I fell in love with somebody else.

"I had problems with my ex-girlfriend and my baby was very sick. I had problems with the gaffer David Moyes and that was all my own fault because I made the wrong choices. At the time I was not thinking straight."

On alcohol:

Andy van der Meyde factfile

November 1997 - Makes Ajax debut as an 18-year-old. Helps the Amsterdam club win the league and cup double in 2002.

May 2002 - Wins the first of 18 Netherlands cap.

September 2003 - Joins Inter Milan in a £4m deal but goes on to make just 34 appearances in two years with the Italian club.

August 2005 - Joins Everton for £2m.

June 2009 - Released by Everton after making 24 appearances in four years.

February 2011 - Retires at the age of 31.

"I was not speaking to anyone. I was just wearing a mask and pretending everything was okay. I'm not a person who will talk to anyone and explain my problems because I'm not like that.

"You have someone at the club who you can talk to, but they work for Everton so it is difficult to talk to them. It was hard for me. I just kept a mask on and pretended everything was cool.

"Everton bought me when I was injured but after that I played six games and I played well. But before a game against Manchester United I was injured and was out for almost six months. In that six months I was not living like I should have.

"For me it was a way to get out and not think about my problems. I could do what I wanted, I had a lot of money, I could buy what I wanted and I could get girls that I wanted.

"It was very easy. Then you can quickly go off the rails because there is no limit and you could do what you wanted. For me it was going out and drinking, and not thinking of reality."

On drugs:

"I never took drugs while I was playing at Everton. That was after I stayed another year living in Liverpool and had no club and I was taking drugs.

"I was living there alone with a friend and we were just going out and taking drugs. On Friday and Saturday we'd go out and do stupid things because you don't see reality and I was hoping I could get my relationship back with my ex-girlfriend."

On zebras:

"I wanted to sign for Monaco before I went to Everton but my ex-wife likes a lot of animals. I like a dog or something but not what she likes - zebras and all that sort of stuff.

"If I went there I could have made a lot of money because I wouldn't have had to pay tax there. I phoned my wife and said "'hey they only have apartments there and you can't have a zebra in the flat, you'll have to leave them at home'.

"That was not her thing and she didn't want to go there, so we went to rainy Liverpool."

On the way back:

Andy van der Meyde

Van der Meyde in action against Liverpool in 2001

"It was after a night of partying and I woke up and thought to myself that I was only young, 30 maybe, and thought this life wasn't good for me and I wanted to go back to Amsterdam to be with my family, mother and my sisters and I had to play football again.

"I spoke to my agent and told him I had to get away from this because if I stay here will probably die. I wanted to go to Amsterdam and he arranged that I could go and train with Ajax. He made one phone call and the next day I was back in Amsterdam."

On his regrets:

"I was an idiot and sometimes I lie in bed and think about it, 'Wow man, come on Andy you were a good player'.

"At one moment I was second behind Luis Figo as the best winger in Europe and sometimes I think I wasted it. That is a lesson and now want to help other players and help them not make the same mistakes I did."