By Gary Lim
Tell us more about your time as a young footballer.
I WAS with quite a small team when I was six years old. From seven, I started at Feyenoord, where I had my development until I reached the first team.
Feyenoord was perfect for me.
The youth setup in Holland is quite good although we are a very small country.
Over the years, we have created some big talents now playing for the big teams in the world.
At first, you struggled to get the breakthrough at Feyenoord, and went out on loan. But you returned and the rest is history. What was the experience like?
I STARTED in the Holland Under-15s, playing with guys like Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert, all big talents.
They then had the chance to play first-team football at Ajax Amsterdam quite early, at about 16 or 17 years old.
My chance came when I was 19. We had some big players at Feyenoord at that time. It was difficult to get into the team.
One thing I always have is self belief. Although I went to RKC Waalwijk on loan, and they were near the bottom of the league, it was a chance for me to play at the highest level.
I learnt there for a few months, playing against PSV Eindhoven, Ajax Amsterdam, all the big Dutch clubs.
Feyenoord saw me playing and they thought that I had talent, but I also had to believe that I was good enough to play for them in the first team.
You're studying for the coaching badges now. How different is it to see the game from a coach's perspective?
IT'S QUITE interesting. I just ended my career for six months now and I'm doing a course to be a coach.
Now, I'm training the Feyenoord Under-19s. It's quite different to be in front of a team and coaching them.
In my career, I played for the big teams and enjoyed some great moments in the European Championships and World Cups.
To see players at 18, 19 years old, working hard to get a career like mine is very pleasing.
Unfortunately, I had a great career and I'm used to very good levels.
For me, it's difficult to go back to the levels that they are at, because they still have to develop over many years.
I find it a bit difficult. But in the end, I'm there to help them focus and get a good career.
What advice would you give to these youngsters?
WAIT for your chance. Sometimes, players on the bench may be moaning about not playing. But you have to focus and get into the team and do your best.
Wait for your chance even if it takes one week, two months or even a year.
But when it comes, you have to take it. Give 100 per cent and everything you have in your body to prove to the coach that you are able to play.
It was quite hard during my time. In my first few training sessions with the first team, the players wanted to show that they are more senior.
They were giving me stick or kicking me, but I think that was the way things were in the past.
That said, I also got good advice from senior players, who told me that I had good talent but I had to work hard and believe in myself. That was what I did.
Sometimes in my career, things didn't go as planned.
At Feyenoord I had to go to another team before I went into the first team. With Arsenal, I had a bad injury. I was at a stage in my career when I needed to play every week.
Then I had the chance to go to Barcelona. In a way, although my future at Arsenal looked very bad, in the end, it really started with my move to Barcelona. After that, I had some great times, winning the league title and the Champions League. It was the best time I had as a player.
So, believe in yourself. This can really help you when things are not going the way you want them to.
What was your first impression of a young Lionel Messi at Barcelona?
OF COURSE, we knew he was going to be a big talent. The coach told me at that time that Messi would be one of the best players in the world. When I saw him play, I knew he was right.
I remember senior players helping to make sure that he felt at home.
Messi is the best player now, and he will be for years to come. He works hard. That's the way it is at the top level.