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