He was born in Rotterdam and he was encouraged to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become an artist. But he preferred to play football and joined the youth section of Excelsior. At the young age of 16, a series of disagreements with the Excelsior coaching staff led to a move to Feyenoord. Where he made his senior debut during the 2001–02 season. He was named as the Dutch Football Talent of the Year. After five years with Feyenoord, he fell out with manager of the team Bert van Marwijk and leave the club. After that he joined Arsenal FC in the year 2004 for a revenue of £2.75 million as a long-term replacement for compatriot Dennis Bergkamp.