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Ruud 'Sexy Football' Gullit fits bill for Galaxy
by Ridge Mahoney, November 8th, 2007 7AM

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TAGS:  international, mls


Reached late on Tuesday night Los Angeles president and general manager Alexi Lalas wouldn't comment on reports the Galaxy is hiring as new head coach former Dutch international Ruud Gullit. But Lalas did say that there could be news from the club as early as Wednesday.

 

The 45-year old has been out of coaching and working in television since leaving Feyenoord, one of his former clubs as a player, two and a half years ago.

He coached English Premier League clubs Chelsea and Newcastle from 1996 to 1999. Both EPL departures were acrimonious yet in May, 1997 he brought Chelsea its first trophy, the FA Cup, in 36 years.

Tall, strong, athletic, and skilled, a melding of muscle and elegance topped by a flying mane of dreadlocks, he drove the Dutch national team to its European Championship crown in 1988 and having played for Haarlem, Feyenoord and PSV, moved to AC Milan, as part of a Dutch drietal that included Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard.

Van Basten is coach of the Dutch national team, Rijkaard leads Barcelona. Gullit's former teammates certainly aren't slumming as coaches.

With Milan Gullit helped it win back-to-back European Cups (now the Champions' League) in 1989 and 1990. Somewhat cynically, Milan, believing he wouldn't recover fully from a serious knee injury, sold him to Sampdoria, then brought him back.

He briefly returned to Sampdoria, then went to Chelsea, eventually replacing former England international Glenn Hoddle as manager while continuing to play part-time.

As a player and manager, in the best Dutch tradition, Gullit could be enthrallingly brilliant and maddeningly stubborn. He infuriated Dutch fans by abandoning the national team on the eve of the 1994 World Cup, citing nothing more substantial than differences with the manager, Dick Advocaat.

He left Feyenoord with a year on his coaching contract still to run.

Nine months after winning that FA Cup with Chelsea, he resigned in frustration over the club's refusal to negotiate a new contract. Poor results drove him out of Newcastle.

In a 2001 interview with ESPN Soccernet, he said, "Being a football manager is no fun at all. You have to put up with all the hassle. It's not surprising that so many turn grey or have heart attacks. I enjoyed working with the players, creating the team - that was fun. But all the rest I hated."

Lalas dropped a HDC-sized hint by mentioning he wanted a "high-profile, sexy type of candidate."

Of course, he could have meant Beckham, but it's Gullit who popularized the phrase "sexy football" during his coaching stints in England.

Whatever the Galaxy was in 2007, even with Beckham, sexy wasn't it.

The Galaxy quest may be assisted by former French international Franck Leboeuf, who played with and for Gullit at Chelsea and for the past few years has been living in Southern California.

LeBoeuf, who regularly attends Galaxy games, told me during a game at HDC last year that Gullit instilled club pride and a winning tradition at Chelsea, which for decades had lured fading big names who seldom lived up to their paychecks.

Might Lalas be turning up the heat on other candidates, such as Juergen Klinsmann, by this pursuit of Gullit? Perhaps. But certainly Lalas desperately needs a iconic figure to revive his team and rightly or wrongly Frank Yallop paid the price for not getting it done.

Yallop is happier in San Jose. Can LA find joy in Ruud Gullit, and vice versa?

I hope we get the chance to find out. Work it may not, but sexy it will be.

 



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