Tag: Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit’s football vision

Ruud Gullit aimed to bring Oranje to the World Cup alongside Dick Advocaat. It didn’t work out. Gullit’s story, on his time with Oranje, the crisis in Dutch football and the hope he feels inside him.

When Gullit walks into the lunch restaurant in Amsterdam, he’s got a big smile on his face. As per usual. He just had a body-scan, a preventive medical examination. “Man, I had to be all empty for that. You can’t eat for 24 hours and anything that is left in your body, got to go out. They put tubes in your mouth, in your ass, in every body-opening a tube, hahaha. Well, they tell you afterwards what’s going on and in my case: all clear. Super healthy!”

He orders a soda water and a salad. “Now I’ll do a bit more even to stay this way, hahaha.”

So, when did you – uber positivo – lose faith in Oranje’s chances for the World Cup?

Ah, the night Sweden thrashed Luxembourg… My faith got a big blow. We were in the bus for our Belarus game, towards the Johan Cruyff Arena. And we heard ping after ping on the mobile phones. That was a big downer.”

So how can you then motivate the players to have them play with confidence?

“That’s hard. But we stayed positive. Look at yourself, focus on the tasks at hand. We have quality and we will beat Belarus! This is also how we approached the Sweden game. But we didn’t make it. The series we played weren’t too bad. With normal rules (the results between rival Sweden would normally be the decider instead of goal difference) we would have qualified. In the CL, it’s about the result between the two clubs who finish at the same level of points. Our results vs Sweden were better but still we’re out. That is wrong!”

Did you do enough though, to get our goal difference up?

“I do believe so. It’s so easy to say you gotta start with four attackers. We played against Belarus with four, at some stage and we gave away chance after chance. You can’t just say “now we’re going all attack!”. The contrast is crazy, we needed control first and we actually did well considering the circumstances. And while we were trying to get more confidence in the team, the people and media around us had all this negative energy going out way. It becomes really hard to overcome all that.”

When you and Dick were presented, it wasn’t about the Dutch School, but all about winning. That was a conscious decision?

“No not really. Dick and I have a similar vision and approach. Winning is all that matters. I get annoyed with all that talk about attractive football. We are not in a position to want to play attractive. I played for AC Milan, which was at that time one of the most attractive teams on the planet. But seriously, three quarters of all our matches were won ugly. Just get the points. And I’m talking absolute top! And yes, Pep Guardiola spends 500 mio euros to get the football he wants, but we believe we can play like that with our national team? Don’t make me laugh!”

Have we been too much focused on all this, in Holland?

“For sure! We see ourselves as the inventors of modern football. I will never forget Carlo Ancelotti’s words, whenever Dutch reporters would come to Milanello. “Ah, there are the Dutch football professors again!”. And that still is our image abroad. A couple of know-it-alls who talk about tactics as if it’s some holy topic, but never winning trophies. And its our own doing.”

Is that why we don’t see top coaches from Holland in the big leagues anymore?

“Partly, yes. And it’s no surprise to me. Dutch coaches stay in their bubble too long in other leagues. And we go into another football culture and tell them they’re doing it wrong. But adapting to other circumstances is key. There is not just One System, there are more ways leading to Rome. And sometimes we get a shock and wake up. Like, when Dutch clubs are without a hope in the world in European competitions. Or when a coach gets fired. We all start yelling how is it possible that we are so far behind, but then we shrug our shoulders and keep doing what we were doing.”

You couldn’t make it happen for Oranje though.

“We did turn the results around. But it wasn’t enough. We don’t need to be all dramatic about it. It’s like the economy. There are waves of talents and periods with lesser talent. When we won the EC in 1988, we hadn’t performed at 3 major tournaments. In 1988, PSV won the European Cup, KV Mechelen with a couple of Dutchies won the EC II. A year prior, Ajax won that. Marco and I were at AC Milan. But when we were younger, we didn’t qualify either. And Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder also needed time to become the world class players they ended up becoming.  And we’re in one of those phases now. But we still ooze talent.”

So how hard will we miss those big name players going forward?

“You will miss Robben for sure. He was a top player for us, and a role model. And in the last matches, Sneijder was there and he did ever so well. A fantastic mentality. He was on the bench, and usually a player like him can’t handle that too well but he is no fool. And he wants to keep on fighting for Oranje. He really pushes the quality up at practice. And after the friendly against Scotland, he got me in stitches. He wasn’t used by Dick and he walks into the dressing room after the game and says “Wow, I didn’t know you can only sub two players in a friendly!”. Typical Sneijder. And you could wipe me of the floor. Others will have to step up now.”

How is it that top players like Wijnaldum and Strootman are vital for their top clubs but are so disappointing in Oranje?

“Good point. The good thing is, these players know this too and they’re working on that. It’s a first step. I have visited Kevin in Rome and discussed it with him. The contents will remain between us, but it’s too easy to just point at the difference in teams they play in. There is more to it. The meeting I had was good, open and honest and Kevin thanked me afterwards. Players need to look in the mirror first. I also spoke with Wijnaldum about it. And they’re top players and smart too. They now have the experience and status to be the leaders. Like Virgil van Dijk, that lad has everything to be world class: length, speed, strength, a good build up pass, but he can be a little complacent at times. He needs to focus. Once he focuses for 100%, he will be a top top defender. Daley Blind, he is a super player in the role we used him in, just in front of the back four. Tonny Vilhena is also a player I rate high. I expect him to grow once he makes his move from Feyenoord. I think he’s ready for it. And Stefan de Vrij is top at Lazio, Memphis is reborn in Lyon, I think we have amazing players. It’s not all bad news.”

Which young talents do you see emerge?

“I see many. Matthijs de Ligt, he copped criticism after Bulgaria, but I told him not to worry about that. See, he’s developed at Ajax, and at Ajax they are used to have the ball 70% of the time. At Ajax, you have the ball. I told him, in Oranje it will be different. The focus needs to be on what you do without the ball. His attention needs to be 100% when we do not have possession. Anticipate what can happen when the opponent wins the ball. What are his tasks when we lose the ball, his positioning, etc. You need to be mentally and positionally ready for that. The other 30% in Oranje, is easy. That’s when we have the ball. It’s another mindset. In the Eredivisie you can pass the ball nicely, but against France or Denmark or Portugal, you can’t. He is like a sponge, he loves that input. Like Donny van de Beek. They want to learn. Justin Kluivert has massive potential. He now needs to be more constant in his game. These lads need time. Dennis Bergkamp wasn’t extra-ordinary when he was 20 years old. He started to become super good at 24 years of age. Paul Pogba, same story. Talents who are world class at 19 years old are rare.”

Our talents leave Holland too soon?

“Yes, I would advise them to stay longer. It’s better for your development, you will play more games and the scouts will find you anyway. Look at Lozano and Neres, they’re in the Eredivisie for a reason. They want to learn here and use Holland as a stepping stone. In the top leagues, you either need to be top notch already otherwise you are on the stands or loaned to a lower club on a lower level. Look at what happened to De Bruyne at Chelsea. Or Salah at Chelsea. Or Loftus-Cheek. If these lads have trouble initially, it’s not strange that our talents are having a hard time there as well. So don’t leave too soon, even despite the artificial pitches.”

What is your biggest problem with that?

“If I tell people abroad that we have so many clubs playing on artificial surfaces, they think I’m pulling their leg! It’s something you can’t explain. No one does this, only Holland. You get different types of players, the football is different. When will people act? When will the licensing requirements change? Clubs with artificial pitches should not play top level football. So, simply don’t sign that right back from Slovakia, but fix your pitch. Make the right choices. Same with youth academies. If a club does not want to invest in youth academies, then don’t let them compete at the top level. Full stop. You can’t just look at your own interests. The new KNVB Technical Director has a big job fixing all these things. I wish the guy all the luck in the world.”

How is your relationship with Hans van Breukelen?

“It’s fine. I forget and forgive. I can get pretty angry, but it goes away quickly too. That is my personality. Swallow the turd and move on. Don’t keep on walking around with a turd in your mouth! I told Hans in his face what I thought about it all and that’s it for me. He should have told me that Marco was about to leave for FIFA. Easy. And Marco agrees with me. All that silly stuff of secrets and hidden agendas. But, it’s not an easy job, he had. I wonder who will step into that role now. Because you get the blame for everything.”

What do we need to change at youth level?

“Kids are being told everything. It’s all made so simple for them. So stop with those positioning games and those pre-programmed methods. Most youth coaches kick the creativity out of the player. You can hear them yell at the players. They need to pass, they can’t have a failed dribble activity or all hell breaks loose. Let those kids play! This is how they learn, let them develop their technique. And let them sort out things themselves, let them choose teams etc. Ger Blok, who was our youth coach at the time was good at that. He would always ask us: so what is your idea? What do you think we should do? Forced us to think about it. My son plays in the AZ youth. They get it there. They make the talent responsible for his development. You create independent and intelligent players like this. Because on the pitch, players need to make the decisions.”

How can you make this part of the training?

“It’s important to use match situations in training. Even at the highest level, this is lacking at times. Typical example with Oranje. After the training, some players took time to do some finishing. Memphis, Promes, Vilhena and some others. So they were on the edge of the box and someone would play the ball to them from next to the goal post. And then they’d hit the ball on goal. Good fun! So I asked them: How often do you get a pass from next to the goal post, in a match? The answer is clear: eh..never… Ok, so why practice this? So I said,  we’ll do this different. Stand with your back to goal, with a defender – me – in their back. And then you get a ball played into you, which is not perfect. At hip height. At knee height. With a bounce, to the wrong foot. The first touch needs to be so that they create space, turn and then shoot on goal. Those are the situations you get in a match. These are the details I’m talking about.”

Was that your role, typically?

“Yes, Dick said: just work with the players and that is a good role for me. Take Locadia. I asked him: what are you, a winger or a central striker. He said: I’m a striker. So I said: but you run so much. All that running… That is easy to defend for a defender. He didn’t believe me. So I called out to Rekik and asked him: What do you think is harder to defend: a striker on the move, or a striker who basically leans into you and you don’t know when or how he’ll run? Rekik said: a striker running is easier to defend, you know where he’s going, he won’t surprise you that much. You should have seen Locadia’s face! I want to make players aware of their job. Take Daley. Blind is a tad introvert. So I asked him: what playing style do you prefer? He said: I’ll go with what the coach wants. I said, no I want you to think about it and express it. It’s important that players are accountable and they need to learn to communicate this. Some players started to give their opinion and wanted zonal marking. I’m personally not a fan, but hey… The players need to do it, and I’m not a dictator.”

Is this something that happens enough between players and coaches?

“I think it can be done more and better. I think players with an opinion are being told to shut it. But you need to cherish those, these kids think out of the box. The cherries on the cake. A talent needs to be a bit difficult. All good players have their weird things. I was a bit crazy too. In Holland, Hakim Ziyech is one of those. He’s “difficult”. He’s got an opinion. But he dares to think differently and play differently. And he has the skills to execute it. He can be the difference. And as a coach you need to find the balance, of him playing in service of the team or the other way around. And he will need to find that too. It all starts with the material you have, as a coach.”

Do coaches make their vision too important?

“I think so yes. They play and act as if they invented the game. The game is evolving constantly. It’s faster, more physical. So you ask yourself, how do I get the optimal result from this team. How to create a man more situation. How to pressure. How do you avoid being taken out by a counter? Now suddenly, the 5-3-2 is being heralded as the new thing. Nonsense, I used that at Chelsea already, 20 years ago. And Liverpool played like that back then too. The system is just a starting point. And Louis van Gaal apparently made a wonderful discovery for the WC2014. So he did it for Man United too but that never worked and he went back to four at the back. It all depends on the material you have. You find the system that fits the players, in particular with the National Team.”

Is Memphis potentially the best player we have?

“He has tremendous qualities. He’s now making some good steps. But it’s not about playing. A top player needs to be aware of off-pitch things as well. These guys are like rock stars now and the world has you under a magnifying glass. And you can’t let that distract from what it is about. Memphis is a totally cool lad. A very sweet guy. And a fantastic player. We see this in Lyon and now we see it at Oranje as well.”

Did you discuss his performances vs his image?

“Absolutely. I had many really good talks with him. He has his own view on things. He feels people should leave him be. His private life, is his. And I get that. But, he does put private pics on Instagram and social media, and you can’t have it all. If you do this, people will judge you. So, either you don’t care what people say about you, or you don’t give them ammunition. No matter what you do, you can’t change other people. And it all comes down to results and performances. But, he’s doing well now at Lyon, and guess what: people talk about his performances again. That is what he needs to keep up.”

And how about your social media exploits with that little film you published after the Bulgaria game?

“Yes man, much ado about nothing. Neymar does this all the time, and in American sports it’s also very common. People love a little look behind the scenes. Everyone had an opinion about it, well fine… Whatever. It’s not the most important thing, is it? And you know what, we had just lost 4-0 against France. We had to get the players’ chins up in 4 days. And they did, and we won. Well done and I felt it was a rightful thing to do and say, to support the players. In that sense, it was a fantastic game.”

Would you have wanted to go on with Dick, with Oranje?

“For sure. If I was the top man at the KNVB, I would have said: “Dick, it’s going well, why not keep it going?” The results were good, the players responded well to us, Frans Hoek and Fred Grim are top professionals. Why not keep it going? No idea…”

Dick Advocaat even suggested you as the national team manager….

“I loved that. Dick believes in me, but he is not the decision maker. And it’s like, every coach that gets fired in bigger leagues is suddenly a top candidate for Oranje? Is that a recommendation than? Being fired? Well, if people think they’re better qualified, so be it. And I would love to remain as assistant of course, but it has to come from the new coach. I think any new coach needs the freedom to pick the assistants he wants to work with. I will not push myself forward. I have ambitions and want to coach. At a club, a country, whatever works. I will respond to what comes on my path.”

Thanks to VI Pro

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Rinus Michels successful without Johan Cruyff

Rinus Michels started to get really annoyed with Johan Cruyff. The Ajax coach definitely enjoyed the presence of the young tactical wizard and it didn’t take long for the media to keep on repeating that Michels’ success came as a result of working with Johan… The Europa Cup with Ajax, the silver medal in 1974 with Oranje… The title with Barca. The successes in the US. And without JC, Michels has not really been too successful.

Until 1988. Where the biggest success for Michels was not winning the finals, but in particular winning the semi finals against West Germany. After the heroic game in Hamburg, Michels sighed “Let’s hope that all those musings about 1974 will stop now…”

Total Football, more and more seen as the product of the brain of Cruyff, is now for a while moved aside. He doesn’t just deal with the stories of a generation past, but also with Johan’s shadow. And during the 1988 tournament, Cruyff was again a thorn in Michels’ side.

It is Cruyff who states right before the tournament that Oranje should be seen as a big favorite. In a Spanish newspaper, Cruyff says that Oranje will win the title. “As long as they play with three forwards.”

Cruyff is Ajax coach until January 1988 and impresses with his revolutionary approach. At times only playing with three defenders and putting his team under a lot of pressure. But he does win a European Cup with the youngsters, although PSV proves to be a bit more effective in the Eredivisie. Cruyff would make a similar move as he did as a player and will take up coaching Barcelona, with a similar revolutionary style, introducing Total Football in Catalunya.

And without a doubt, Michels will fear being deleted from the history books in Spain.


Michels sharing the spotlight with JC

At that time, the south European teams play destructive football. 4-4-2 is the name of the game and Italy and Argentina win World Cups with that system, while Denmark impresses with a similar style. All the big European clubs at that time, Real Madrid, PSV, AC Milan and KV Mechelen all play a similar style. And Dutch coaches like Beenhakker, Hiddink and De Mos prefer playing with two strikers and a fortified midfield.

Cruyff enjoys the opposition: “If they play 2 strikers I can play with only 3 defenders. Meaning I have 4 midfielders to meet their and I have three strikers, to put pressure on the opponent.”

After one game at the Euro, Michels realised that this approach is not holy. The USSR only needs one well placed strike to beat Oranje. And after the first game, Michels immediately responded to Cruyff’s earlier comments. “We are merely an outsider. The expectations are set much too high.”

The coach also criticises his skipper Ruud Gullit: “He missed the boat. He had a free role in this game and he couldn’t support the team when they needed him. And as a team, we are too soft. Not winners. We were losing the game and in the second half we only had four fouls. That is highly unprofessional.”

Gullit is not happy with his new role in the team and Cruyff immediately criticises Michels for not selecting Rob Witschge. The best response however is Van Basten’s. Marco is sharp and he wants to start. At training, Van Basten never plays a decent ball to Bosman, his competitor for the center striker position. Later, Van Basten justifies this like this: “That’s how it works. You try to protect your territorium. It’s egocentric, but that is how it is.”

Just before the Euro, Michels says “We have a system we will adhere to” and “We have had enough time to prepare ourselves”. Only 5 days later, he significantly changes the team. Revolutionary, almost. The concept will be totally changed.

A fortified midfield with work horse Erwin Koeman for artist John van ‘t Schip. And two forwards: Gullit and Van Basten, in the AC Milan set up. John Bosman was striker #1, becomes striker #3. Kieft remains the pinchhitter.

cruyff michels barcelona barcablog barca blog barcelona barcelona barcablog barca blog barcelona

Michels instructing JC… Or… the other way around?

No more wingers. midfielder Vanenburg and forward Gullit need to guard the “operational areas” left and right.

Michels is taking a huge gamble. But, an educated one. Bssed on intuition, his analysis of his players and opportunism.

The second game, the win against England, was not built on the Dutch football culture or well prepared tactical prowess. The victory was based simply on the class of one Marco van Basten and luck. Luck, as England hit the post twice in the first  half and one of the MVB goals might have been offside.

Wim Kieft has an impact in this game as well. Michels knows a win is key and brings the target man. Once criticised by Marco van Basten, his successor at Ajax, once called him “that big tree”, but apart from being a great header of the ball, Kieft also excelled in keeping the ball and distributing the ball to the moving players around him. A combination of a good touch and vision. Kieft is the perfect lightning rod for Van Basten in the second half.

Against Ireland, another finals, Holland needs a win. Ireland can make do with a 0-0. And it seems for a long time that this would be the final score. John Aldridge is closest to the winner, with a header which might have been blocked by Vanenburg’s hand, and maybe even behind the goal line. Michels needs to change his line up again. Midfielders Muhren and Koeman are benched, and Bosman and Kieft are brought in. Holland plays with 5 forwards: Vanenburg, Gullit, Van Basten, Bosman and Kieft. And it works! There will be no smooth attack via the wings, but it takes a failed half volley by Koeman. The ball could have ended up in the stands, but it bounces onto the head of the attentive Kieft, pure luck, who instinctively tries to flick the ball on. The curve on the original ball, the Koeman volley AND Kieft’s header lets the ball bounce out of reach of Pat Bonner and seems to go past the goal, only to make a billiards-like shift and bounces into the goal.

This is a goal that has never been copied. There are no other goals like this one. That much coincidence in one passage of play.

Michels feels liberated and he embraces every piece of luck that comes his way. He becomes creative and even playful. And he calls this 1988 team stronger than the 1974 team… hmmm….

koeman wipes

Koeman wipes arse with Thon jersey

And he likes to pay out Cruyff once more. “Cruyff is merely a starting coach” and he even calls him a psychopath. Michels says about his successes with Ajax: “Ah, successes with Ajax in the Eredivisie? What does that mean? It’s a boyscout competition. What we need today, are football soldiers. Players who can suffer and battle. Every game we play is a battle. I am not talking about Cruyff, but players like Van Hanegem! Neeskens!”

Marco van Basten assumes that role against West Germany. He is not the Cruyff of the team, he is the Van Hanegem. He doesn’t walk away from being an irritating prick on the field. But Van Breukelen and Koeman join in as well. The goalie yells at Matthaus “I hope you fucking die!” when he is rolling around after a dive and Ronald Koeman wipes his ass after the game with Thon’s shirt. The victory is a celebration and releases pent up anger and frustration. The Dutch School is totally ignored. This victory is not build on positioning or total football. This Euro was a dirty Euro. And Johan Cruyff gets more and more quiet.

Oranje played like Argentina. Not like Brazil. Aad de Mos commends the coach’ ability to build up the mentality of the players, more than his tactical smarts. Two great passers from the back (Koeman and Rijkaard), two players who can decide games (Gullit and Van Basten) and two iron-eaters (Erwin Koeman and Jan Wouters)

There was the speed of Van Aerle and Van Tiggelen, allowing Oranje to play high. Vanenburg and Muhren were the ideal connecting players in midfield, who completely sacrificed their dominant roles ( both playmakers at PSV and Ajax).

All those qualities came together on June 25, 1988. Van Breukelen chokes Belanov when he is about to take his penalty and gives the signal of invincibility. This Oranje is not built on attractive and dominant play. Oranje’s success was built on willpower and determination. And luck.

The England and Ireland game, we discussed. The penalty against West Germany was another gift. Van Breukelen’s stopped penalty was a bonus and Van Basten’s volley was an eternal gem, but that ball could have ended up anywhere in the stadium.

The 1988 team has not captured the hearts of the world, like the Naranja Mecanica did in 1974.

Michels will embrace the 1988 campaign as his great success but the rift between Cruyff and Michels has not done Dutch football many favours.


Did LVG and JC have an affair???

Oranje could have put the cherry on the cake in 1990 with a strong squad and with JC at the helm. But Michels clearly refused to let his victory be overshadowed and he decided to stonewall the players.

Cruyff never officially got the reigns over Oranje. His influence was ever tangible though. Louis van Gaal took JC’s textbook and gave it his own spin. Van Gaal also incorporated a lot of Michels in his approach. But Van Gaal did not (yet) manage to become the new Cruyff or Michels. The pompous one failed miserably in 2000, when he believed to have the strongest Oranje squad ever. Ireland and Portugal were too strong. Van Gaal misses the intuitive smarts of Michels and the creative genius of Cruyff.

The 1974 squad has a heroic glare. The longhaired rebels, all seemingly playing their own game, and in the process tearing Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and West Germany apart (albeit without winning vs West Germany, of course…).

The 1988 squad did not bring Holland anything but the silverware. No tactical finesse, no remarkable legacy.

The individual strength of players like Gullit, Van Basten, Koeman, Wouters and Van Breukelen will forever live on, of course as will the fact that almost every player of that squad became an active coach at some time. Passing on their experience and insights.

And it’s not just the Rijkaards, Koemans and Wouters we are talking about. Arnold Muhren was a youth coach at Ajax for a long time, like Van Tiggelen is still coaching at amateur level. But also players who were just not good enough for Oranje back then (Danny Blind, Wim Koevermans, Peter Bosz, Gertjan Verbeek, Fred Rutten, Ruud Brood, Ton Lokhoff) are all active in some form in pro football today. Bosz at Vitesse, Verbeek at AZ, Brood at Roda JC and Lokhoff was at VVV most recently.

Outside of Holland, 1988 will be remembered for the charisma of Gullit and Van Basten. “Achtentachtig allemachtig prachtig” is a term you still hear from taxi drivers in Thailand, Egypt, Mexico or New Zealand. And Van Basten was knowns as the Son of Cruyff while Gullit became a superstar, the first coloured player to accept a major trophy as skipper.

This social cultural heritage appeared more important for The Netherlands than the football legacy.


wk1990The book written on that weird 1990 campaign… 

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The Big Ruud Gullit Interview (Pt 2)

Gullit current girlfiend

Ruud happy now with his current Mexican girlfriend

And we pick it up with Ruud, talking about the 1996 Euro in England. Another tournament where Holland seem to implode due to infighting.

In 1996, Edgar Davids was sent home by Guus Hiddink. What do you think was the core of the problem?

Ruud Gullit: “I was in England in 1996, but I haven’t seen it from the inside of course. It was an Ajax thing that seeped into Oranje. It wasn’t even between coloured and white lads, but between young and old. But the media turned it into a racist thing, as all the youngsters were coloured lads. And sure, the chef of Oranje didn’t know how to make Suriname food and all that but they key was that lads like Reiziger, Seedorf, Davids got paid way less than Blind, De Boer and other older Ajax players. The gap between young and old was huge. And Ajax had told the youngsters they should be proud to be playing for Ajax. That really hurt them. And I think they were also hurt that their skipper and other players didn’t support them. And they carried it with them and took it into Oranje.”

We don’t seem to learn from this?

“Yep, it’s a Dutch thing. We can’t help ourselves and we want to give our opinion all the time. I remember in Italy people having enormous trouble with that. Hierarchy is a big thing there. In Italy, players listened to the coach. And suddenly, there were three Dutchies asking Sacchi all the time “Why?”. He told us to come to his office if we had something to discuss. They simply don’t like that. They call us the professors of football in other countries. Because we are so hardheaded and know-it-alls. In England they told me: “You believe you invented football”. And I always say “But we did!”. Hahaha, look at those faces… But that mentality has given us a lot in the world. In sports, in business, in engineering… But we do forget that in other countries they think we are too direct, too blunt… But you see it in the way we want to play football. A bit naive, too attacking and too open. But our reputation abroad is superb. Look at how that trip to China and Indonesia went. Amazing. And Glenn Hoddle called me up recently. He is doing radio shows at the BBC now. Wanted to talk how Dutch youth development could help English football. That is a huge compliment.”

gullit chelsea

 Gullit winning the FA Cup at Chelsea with Di Matteo


How do you see the current Oranje squad?

“I like what Van Gaal is doing. It’s fun to watch Oranje again. I like it how the experienced lads need to fight for a spot. That is good. This mix of young and old is good for Oranje. Van Gaal has seen it well. But, with beautiful football alone you can’t win prizes. Ask Arsene Wenger.”

According to Van Gaal, there are eight other nations with more chances to win the World Cup than Holland. Do you agree?

“It’s a smart move by him. He’s covering himself a bit against huge expectations. And It’s probably realistic. Lots of players in the squad lack international experience. Playing against the opponents we had in the qualification series is not the same as playing Portugal, Columbia, Argentina or Italy. I don’t think we are without chances, but i don’t think we are amongst the faves. But Louis is an expert and he knows how to get the maximum from a group. And in 1988, we were not that seasoned. I just had one season in Italy, like Marco. Frank had a weird season. Koeman and Wouters were still in Holland, so was Vanenburg.”

Only the Koeman bros, Wouters and Van Basten are active as head coach. Why so few?

“I think most of them tried. Van Tiggelen, Vanenburg… I think Muhren always wanted to work with youth and Van Aerle never had the ambition but everyone has his own story. I mean Wouters… Come on… Great story. I always knew he would be a great coach. But that first job at Ajax was simply bad timing. He was revered at Rangers and seemed to be a good assistant more than head coach. But look at him now. Koeman is doing well at Feyenoord, after some difficult stints. You need some luck sometimes.”

When did you feel acknowledged as a good coach?

“Whoa, that was way back with Chelsea. We won the FA Cup. A big thing in England. I narrowly missed the cup final with Newcastle and with Feyenoord. People forget that. People tend to remember the last thing you did.”

Grozny… Not a great memory?

“Well, I do like to do left field, unexpected things, you know. People criticised my move to Grozny but I couldn’t care less. I am my own man. And it was quite a wonderful experience.”

Gullit Galaxy

Gullit with Becks at LA Galaxy



Do clubs find you with offers?

“Well, it’s a bit quiet, to be honest. I haven’t done great as a coach. I know this. And in all honesty, I don’t really profile myself as a coach, these days. I do have a score to settle with myself on that count. If a good club would come for me, I’d certainly consider it. But it’s not a must. I don’t need to prove myself to the outside world or anything. The key criterion is: will I enjoy doing this and is it a challenge. Because I love my life as it is now too.”

So what does an average week for Ruud Gullit look like?

“It doesn’t exist, haha. I travel a lot. My girlfriend lives abroad. I do analysis work for Sky Sports in England and Germany and I have several commercial gigs all over the place. My whole life I am offered interesting jobs, I enjoy that.”

Last year, the public saw you as an alternative to Louis van Gaal. National team manager. How did you experience that?

“I was very happy with that lobby. And it was the public, but also some influential media people (Johan Derksen, for one). It was a change from the way people approach me normally. People are highly critical of my career as a coach, as discussed, but still they could see my potential value as national coach. I was ridiculed for my work with Grozny and my private life was a mess ( Estelle Cruyff, Ruud’s wife had a public affair with a fighting champ and left Gullit). And then this candidate thing happened. It really touched me deeply. I have no idea where that suddenly came from. People did care about me and what I do. And then, I was asked to become the ambassador for the Rijksmuseum. I can still feel the emotions coming up thinking about those days. Those are big things for me.”

You need that acknowledgement?

“Maybe yes. The national team manager job is the highest job in football in Holland. And the Rijksmuseum is a key player in the cultural and historical realm of Holland. I am proud and grateful. When I told about all this in the tv program “De Wereld Draait Door” I could see later how I beamed with glee. That is something I hadn’t seen for years. For years, I couldn’t watch myself on tv. I found myself annoying. I didn’t see a happy man. Now, all is different.”

gullit married

Ruud marrying Johan’s niece Estelle. Didn’t end good.


But you appear to be so detached and relaxed?

“Well, I do feel the criticism. And now I feel like I can have some worth again. I remember that first official event for the museum. Queen Beatrix was there and suddenly someone comes up to me asking me if I had time for a talk with the Queen!! I was on Cloud Nine. I can’t remember a single word I uttered to her. I was so overwhelmed.”

If you look back…things you would have done differently? Any coaching activities you regret?

“No, none of that. I enjoyed all of them in a funny way. The criticism I received was always political. At Newcastle, they said I was shopping in Amsterdam. I have been working like this for many years. When I was successful at Chelsea, no one cared. At Newcastle, others made it into a problem to serve their agenda. I worked 4 days a week. That was my deal. I had field trainers and we worked well together. At Feyenoord, I may have relied too much on certain people in the organisation who were not too effective. In LA, well… It’s another culture. Football in the US… the travel, the sponsors… It’s hard to remain true to yourself. No my biggest regret in my career is not a coaching one, but was the World Cup 1994. I mean, we sadly missed 1986, then we had that horrific 1990 one. The 1994 World Cup was my last chance. And I really really really wanted to perform there. But yet again, the KNVB had bypassed Cruyff. For reasons we now only laugh about. Today, team managers are being paid top dollar. Back in the 90s, Cruyff wanted a decent salary. He was at Barca back then and demanded a similar sort of deal, for those two months.. And he wanted to pick his own staff. Of course!! He wouldn’t work with people who didn’t share his vision. Anyway, KNVB stifles it, picks Advocaat. Now, I don’t have anything against Dick. But when they didn’t get the message about the heat in Florida… The medical staff at Samp and Milan (Ruud was at Samdoria and returned to AC Milan that summer) were adamant about how to prepare for this. I discussed this with the staff and Dick and they sort of ridiculed it. Dick was also flippant about my role in the team. Said I had to prove myself. Was I still fast enough as a winger… I felt disrespected. I couldn’t get excited. I felt vulnerable. And I couldn’t face another debacle. Looking back at that World Cup campaign, with a bit more power, we could have won it. Brazil was not that great a team. Neither was Italy. We had exciting young lads in Bergkamp, Winter, Taument… I also should not have returned to AC Milan that summer. Another regret. But, making mistakes is not bad. It always brings you new things. Not doing anything, that is not good. But I am grateful that I always took risks…”

Gullit 94


Advocaat and Gullit at press conference where Gullit announces to leave the World Cup 1994 squad

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The Big Ruud Gullit Interview (pt 1)

Ruud Gullit is an icon. A legend. The first and only skipper to lead a Dutch national senior team to silverware.

Sadly for Gullit, his resume reads: former top player, former reggae wannabe, serial groom (and womaniser), icon, and failed coach.

He tried many things: musician, political activist, tv personality, fashionista, entrepreneur but he will always be remembered for his dreadlocks, big strides and sensational runs.

He played almost on every position in the team, defence, striker, winger, playmaker, midfielder… He had highs in Oranje and lows in Oranje. He had a father-son relation with Michels and a hate relation with Michels.

Time for a definitive talk. Thank you VI Magazine.

1988 was 25 years ago. What is your best memory of the whole tournament?

Ruud Gullit: “In all honesty, the whole post-final ceremony, the cup ceremony, the celebration… It’s al a blur to me. I never know whether it’s my memory or the memory of seeing the images on tv… Weird. The warmest moment for me, was the last day in Holland, before we went to Germany. We had this farewell tv program. And suddenly, when some guy is playing the piano, Michels starts to sing. Loud! Like an opera singer. The man could sing!! Amazing. No one knew. And he sang Droomland ( Land of Dreams) like a pro. It really touched me. We all saw Michels in a different light, suddenly. It sort of increased the respect and love we had for the man. It might have made a difference….who knows…. But I recall that memory often, that was a moment of magic. I tried to find that on YouTube but have never found it, although it was televised…”

Did Michels need that extra from this group?

“Of course not. He had status and personality and charisma. he had this tough image though. Disciplinarian. But we saw his softer side that night. And he wasn’t tough to us, actually. I heard stories from Cruyff and Van Hanegem, so I asked Michels one day: You are not that difficult as the older players said you’d be. He laughed and said: that is because you guys are pros. These guys were rebels. Michels had to drive to the Leidseplein (big square in Amsterdam with clubs and pubs) to chase the players from the cafes at night. We didn’t do that so much. “Those players needed a tough hand. You don’t.” I took that as a big compliment. Michels was a coach who could adapt to circumstances. He observed his players and customised his approach.”



Was that first game, the 0-1 defeat against the USSR, a big setback? Were you concerned?

“Not at all! That was actually the best game we played! We dominated and attacked in 4-3-3 for 80 minutes. We simply didn’t score. Marco was getting stronger and stronger and I knew Marco would get his chance. I was playing pretty dramatically, that game. Nothing against Bosman, he played really well and was a super striker, but Marco was super fit, and from another world. And Marco was soooo eager. And I had this tremendous click with Marco on the pitch. Watch the England game and you’ll see that I am constantly looking for him. I was weak, he was strong and I played in service of him. I didn’t have that so much with Bosman, who is a different striker. Sad for the lads who had to make way, but to me it was clear that Marco was the man who could make the difference.”

So what was wrong with you?

“I was just spent. So tired from that first season in Italy. I was done for. The game against West Germany, that was when I started to feel my strength return. And the USSR final was my strongest game. And Michels saw it. He forbade me to take free kicks. Koeman was the first man for free kicks, until the finals. Then Michels changed that back. For me a signal that I could go full throttle in the finals. I had the backing and confidence of the coach. He was smart like that.”

Was there really a chance that Marco van Basten would have pulled out of the tournament beforehand?

“I don’t think he really would have. I know he was upset and angry that he was benched, playing with number 12. He did talk to Cruyff and later with Michels. Marco is a real striker. And therefore selfish. Almost funny. If he hadn’t scored for a while he would become nasty. He would scold people for not playing the ball correctly. He would blame everyone. And I would put him in his place and laugh at him. That is how you needed to work him. But most players feared him. Marco can be tremendously dominating. Bullying. You need to break through that mask and than it’s a very nice lad. We played for amateur club AFC together, after our career. It was good fun. But he would be so professional and eager and fanatical. Marco is top drawer and demanded everything around him to be too. His team mates feared him, the opponents feared him, the referee, hahahaha. Everyone played for fun, but Marco plays to win, hahahaha.”

Did Marco not get annoyed with your lose and somewhat undisciplined style?

“I’m sure yes. We are really opposites. But we we complimentary towards one another. And the combination of his personality and his qualities made him the best of the world. And make no mistake: he was mean. He was a bastard on the pitch. No one could bully him. I see this in Sneijder. And Van Bommel had it too. This is why Van Bommel and Van Basten clashed I think. Similar personalities.But Marco is the role model as a striker. The 100% perfect specimen. And every striker at Ajax after him got this baggage on his shoulder. Even Ibrahimovic, one of the best of the world now, was seen as a disappointment at Ajax, compared to Marco….”

Back to the Euro 1988. In 1990, the same generation disgracefully left the World Cup early. In 2010, Oranje won silver in South Africa and left the Euros in 2012 without a single point. Is that typically Dutch?

“I’m sorry to say it, but yes. Its that Dutch hardheadedness. The “we know it all” mentality. In a squad, you need hierarchy. And this hierarchy exists almost naturally if a team has not had success yet. The lesser players want to follow the stronger players. As it is the road to success. Once success hits, all the players in Holland start to think they can be a leader. And you get groups and cliques and issues. Towards 1990, we suddenly got many captains. Suddenly I read interviews where waterbearers – with all due respect – started to moan about the privileges of the Three of Milan and all that. WTF? Or some players started to talk about the fee we’d get if we would win the World Cup… That stupid behaviour.”

gullit beenhakkerBody language 101

You and Marco were very critical towards Van Marwijk and the Oranje squad in the run up to the 2012 Euro. You saw it coming?

“Of course! The dynamics were not good. You could see and hear it. Marco and I had deja vues. It was just like in 1990. Bert van Marwijk was not amused. He felt he deserved support. But this was us, trying to help. We were not slamming him, but giving constructive advice. He should have used those signals. There was that endless debate about Van Persie vs Huntelaar. Clarity, Mr Van Marwijk! The sooner the better. Afellay had a privileged position without have played a game and earlier Bert had said that he only took players along with rhythm. Another mistake. Rafael van der Vaart couldn’t get a look in after a couple of great qualification games as holding mid. Etc etc. The body language of players showed you there was discontent. This was a no hope mission.”

What should Van Marwijk have done?

“Clarity early on. Look at Louis van Gaal now. “This is my system, these are my players, this is how things will go.” And stick to it. Consistency. He kept his cards to his chest too long. Even in the prep phase of the tournament he was experimenting with the strikers. When players share their discontent with the media, it’s too late. The damage is done.”

And the 1990 run up was similar?

“Actually, worse. At least Van Marwijk was by then still the accepted coach. The players all like him a lot. We wanted Cruyff. We made a case for him and we even did the Federations dirty work by axing Libregts. And the Federation promised us Cruyff, but Michels blocked that. Said horrible things about Johan. Calling him a psycho. My God. I knew then and there it would be a disaster. Nothing against Leo Beenhakker. He had the balls to take it on, but he said something like “this is not my squad” and I knew for sure we were in trouble. We also heard, when we got back in the trainings camp from our Europa Cup finals against Benfica, that the other players were annoyed with us… The vibe was bad. I stayed most of the time in my room. I actually was ready to leave.”

When? During the World Cup?

“Yes. I felt like shit. So did Marco. We were both fed up. After the first group games, I went to see Beenhakker. Marco was there and Ted Troost (adviser to Marco and Ruud) was there as moderator. And I have to say, Leo was good in that meeting. Listened, sympathised and we sort of got a common ground which made me stay. I saw some positives in that meeting. And in the first game after that meeting, against Ireland, I scored and I felt there might be a way beyond all this. In that first knock-out game against Germany we played really good. We dominated, were the better team. Until Frankie spat Voller in his neck. And hour later, we could pack our bags.”

Did you ever talk to Rijkaard about this incident?

“Not really, what is there to say. Frankie knew he as wrong. He doesn’t need me to tell him that. And that was not the reason why our campaign failed. It was doomed from the start. The mentality of the players, the Federation not giving us Cruyff, the horrific training camp. I think Johan was the only one with enough clout to have pulled us all in. He would have been so tough on the water-carriers and would have had a simple and effective tactics and line up. I can still get mad when I think how the people back then screwed us over with this….”


rijkaard voller

Rijkaard and Voller made up and earned some money doing so (for a good cause, actually… they donated their fee)


Watch this space for Pt 2 soon. In which Gullit talks about the “racial rift” in 1996, his coaching career and the chances of Oranje in Brazil.

Ruud Gullit said he didn’t know about Michels’ voice. In 1974, however, the Oranje squad was sent off to Germany with a young Michels being hoisted onto stage to sing with typical Amsterdam singers (operette) Willy Alberti (father in law of Soren Lerby) and Johnny Jordaan. The Ode to the Westertoren, a famous Amsterdam landmark.

Dreadful music, really, but at the end of the clip, Michels is asked on stage and you can hear his tremendous voice.

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Dutch School in India: Wim Koevermans

Wim Koevermans with young Indian talent. Rob Baan on the right, behind him…

Only 22 Dutch players ever won senior gold with the National Team. That is not much, considering the tremendous talent Holland has had through the years. The likes of Swart, Moulijn, Keizer, Cruyff, Neeskens, Van Hanegem, Peters, Krol, Bergkamp, Kluivert, Seedorf, Frank de Boer, Roy, Blind, Van Nistelrooy, Van Bommel, etc etc never won gold.

Any one on the planet can give you the names of the most famous Trio that did, back in 1988… Goeliet. Vanbastan, Ricard or whatever they make of it… Most fans can tell you Wouters, Van Breukelen, Vanenburg and Koeman too… Only the diehards will tell you Van Tiggelen, Muhren and Van Aerle while it takes a real geek to go to the bench and name Bosman, Suvrijn and Van ‘t Schip.

Wim Koevermans is probably the least known gold medal winner of the EC1988. The tall defender was never a charismatic player and basically unknown in Holland even!

Never got to play for a big team (was Fortuna Sittard’s and FC Groningen’s central defender) and hasn’t played a lot of games ( only one! ) for the Dutch team.

But Koevermans was there, that summer in Germany and got part of the victor’s spills.

And he had a nice career in coaching since. Did all the courses, and ended up working for NEC Nijmegen and MVV Maastricht before working for the Dutch Federation (KNVB) in coaching management, structuring and lecturing and youth coaching.

He took a youth coaching job for the Irish federation, after Ireland consulted with the Dutch Federation on youth development and was their High Performance Director for a while, until a bigger challenge presented itself.

Today, Wim Koevermans is National Team Manager of India. A country with 2,1 billion inhabitants (give or take a couple) and inhabiting the 169th spot on the FIFA World Ranking. Room for improvement.

So how is he fairing in a country where the biggest club in the country just has been ousted from competition for two seasons… or where you suddenly find a holy cow on your training pitch….or where the best match pitches are worse than the worst amateur training fields in Groningen…?

Koevermans: “Rule one: don’t get annoyed. It will not help in any way. I think preparation is key. A lot of people move abroad not realising the difference in culture. I have prepared myself for this and I knew this would be my reality. I have to deal with it. You want to be successful? You have to get with the culture. This is why Hiddink is so successful abroad, partly and other big name coaches have had trouble… Good know how of the culture is key to success, is my statement.”

The odds are that India oozes talent. Has to be. If it’s a simple odds game and a certain % of youngsters have the gift, than China and India are super powers in the making… But…how do you find the talents? “India has an overarching federation, but under that sits 34 Indian states with 34 sub federations. Some of these states have more than 120 mio inhabitants. More people than France and Spain together!! Some sub federations are truly professional with a good staff and some others are manned by one or two volunteers…”

He goes on: “The level of talent here is pretty good. Technical skills are definitely there. They do have similar circumstances here as in Brazil… Sand, bad pitches, bad balls…all the circumstances to really learn to have quick feet and good skills. But tactically, it’s poor. Physically, it’s poor. In Holland, they teach you from the ages of 6 upwards to make the field bigger or smaller, depending on what the situation is… Here, they don’t. This is one thing we are working on. If you have good skills, a smaller pitch is in your advantage.”

Cricket is India’s sport #1. No doubt about. Ask an Indian kid who he wants to be and it’s not Messi or Beckham or Van Persie.

Football pitches are normally lined out on cricket fields, in multifunctional stadiums.

Koef: “The development in India will be slow. But also sure. Once they commit, they do it. I don’t see India partaking in any World Cup soon, but progression is possible for sure. We recently won the Nehru Cup by beating Cameroon. Sure, it was Cameroon’s B-team but still a strong team. That was a good confirmation of what we will be capable of.”

How did you prepare for this job?

Koevermans: “I started with the culture. I talked to people from the ITIM International group, specialized in management in different cultures. I studied the Indian culture, how do people deal with each other, how can I best transfer know how, how can I best organise meetings, etc…. Rob Baan has been Technical Director here since October 2011 (the former Feyenoord, KNVB and Australian FA tech boss) and I talk to him a lot too.”

“In terms of football, a big nation is a benefit but also a challenge. Watching a couple of games is like flying through Europe or the US. I watched a lot of videos and analysed the work of my predecessor (Bob Houghton). He did really well, but molded an English style of play. Lots of high balls, aerial challenges and pace. For this reason, you see a lot of African born lads in the local competition. Which makes sense, as the Indian physiology is not for that type of game. Fleet of foot, smart, flexible, skillfull… Indian football should be more like Dutch or Spanish football.”

“For the Nehru Cup, I invited 38 players. My assistents told me an Indian player will never tell you he is injured. But I also wanted to have personal meetings with all players. And I wanted to see them all perform on a pitch. I told them my football philosophy and how we would do things. Quite a challenge as you cannot be as direct and confrontational as we are in Holland. The team doctor was an important influence for me. He is our culture guardian.”

“I also introduced video analysis. That helped a lot to get my vision across. You can pick situations and then match those with how the better teams deal with those… They hardly use wingers. It’s very 4-4-2 oriented. I introduced 4-3-3 and we are very dominantly using the flanks. And then you enter the next problem: players telling me they hear and learn things with me they never hear at club level….”

How does Koevermans involve the club coaches?

“That is a challenge. For starters, I do work and talk with them when I visit games, but it’s always limited of course. Secondly, coaches in India do not have a long use-by-date… Thirdly, the quality of their coach diploma is…not that good… We need to do some work on that….

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The New Coach, part 1.

We will most likely have a number of posts on this topic, before we can go to posts covering the actual new coach….

So, from all the names we’ve seen and heard, I think we can rule out Ronald Koeman and Frank de Boer. Both are committed at Eredivisie clubs and the KNVB will not lure a coach away from its members. Not done.

So, big sigh or relief ( in Koeman’s case… Although now I have him at Feyenoord :-(… But he does well there…so all good…)

The name of Louis van Gaal is dropped a lot too, but the media respond very badly to him. His tenure earlier was a drama. Not just the results, also his relationship with the media.

He resigned and had this live broadcast press conference ( no longer available on YouTube) where he basically screamed one last time at the press… “Are you happy now? Louis steps down?? Are you all gloating??”… Classic stuff.

I don’t think the KNVB will want him back.

Rijkaard’s agent already said Frank isn’t interested.

Guus isn’t interested. Dickie won’t do it ( Thank God)…

Danny Blind apparently is not well-liked

Co Adriaanse is obviously available but like Louis is seen as difficult to deal with.

The players would like him. Van Hagegem supports him.

Ruud Gullit is actually putting his hand up. Gullit did ok with the U21s and is seen as a great ambassador for the sports. Johan Derksen is publically supporting Ruud’s bid as he could be a key figure head internationally to restore our pride.

I don’t see Ruud in the lead role though. Because you do have to be a fairly good coach too… Derksen forgets that it’s important mostly, to get results to get international acclaim…

But Co in charge, with Ruud as side-kick for the PR and a strong field coach to work with the lads… Maybe two? Cocu steps down… Maybe someone like Ronald de Boer? And Jan Wouters? Or Patrick Kluivert (who won the title as coach of Twente 2)?

What a team!!

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