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Ruud Gullit

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Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit

Gullit in Doha in 2012
Personal information
Date of birth (1962-09-16) 16 September 1962
Place of birth Amsterdam, Netherlands
Height 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Playing position Forward
Youth career
1967–1975 De Meerboys
1975–1979 DWS[1]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1979–1982 HFC Haarlem 91 (32)
1982–1985 Feyenoord 85 (31)
1985–1987 PSV 68 (46)
1987–1993 Milan 171 (56)
1993–1994 Sampdoria 31 (16)
1994–1995 Milan 8 (3)
1994–1995 Sampdoria 22 (9)
1995–1998 Chelsea 32 (4)
Total 465 (175)
National team
1979 Netherlands U-21 4 (1)
1981–1994 Netherlands 66 (17)
Teams managed
1996–1998 Chelsea
1998–1999 Newcastle United
2004–2005 Feyenoord
2007–2008 Los Angeles Galaxy
2011 Terek Grozny
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Ruud Gullit OON (Dutch pronunciation:  ( ), born as Rudi Dil, 1 September 1962 in Amsterdam) is a Dutch football manager and former football player, who played professionally in the 1980s and 1990s. He was the captain of the Netherlands national team that was victorious at Euro 88 and was also a member of the squad for the 1990 World Cup.

At club level, in 1987 he moved from PSV Eindhoven to A.C. Milan for a world record transfer fee.[2] Easily recognizable with his distinctive dreadlocks, he was part of the famed Dutch trio at Milan which included Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. Gullit won three Serie A titles and two European Cups with Milan.

Gullit was named the European Footballer of the Year in 1987 and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1987 and 1989. Normally an attacking midifielder, he was a versatile player, playing in numerous positions during his career. In 2004 he was named one of the Top 125 greatest living footballers as part of FIFA's 100th anniversary celebration.[3] Gullit was working to promote the Belgian-Dutch 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.

Early life

Gullit was born Ruud Dil in Suriname migrant, and Ria Dil, his buitenvrouw,[4] from the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. The family lived in one split level room on the top floor of a small apartment building. Gullit's father worked as an economics teacher at a local school, his mother as a custodian at the Rijksmuseum.

Gullit developed his football skills in the confines of the Rozendwarsstraat, and street football was instrumental in his formative years. Gullit's first team were the Meerboys, where he joined as a junior in 1970. However, at the age of 10 Gullit moved from the Jordaan to Amsterdam Old West where he played street football alongside Frank Rijkaard. Gullit joined the DWS club after his move, and came to the attention of the Dutch youth team, where he played alongside such future greats as Erwin Koeman, Ronald Koeman and Wim Kieft.

It was during his time at DWS that Gullit first took to using his father's surname, rather than his registered surname, as he thought it sounded more like a football player.[5] He retained his mother's surname, officially, and continues to sign all contracts as Ruud Dil.

Club career

HFC Haarlem

In 1978, he signed professionally for [8] Hughes was so impressed with the young Gullit that he described him as the "Dutch Duncan Edwards".[7]


The young Gullit was considered as a signing by English sides Arsenal F.C. and Ipswich Town, but managers Terry Neill and Bobby Robson turned him down. Neill later told that he considered too much for 'this wild kid'.[9] Gullit therefore moved to Feyenoord in 1982, for a fee of where he made 85 league appearances, scoring 31 goals. At Feyenoord Gullit found himself playing alongside Dutch legend Johan Cruijff, while the assistant manager was Wim van Hanegem, and they were to leave a lasting impression. Gullit's first season saw Feyenoord miss out on major honours, but the following year they completed the league and cup double. Gullit was named Dutch Footballer of the Year in recognition of his contribution to Feyenoord's success. At Feyenoord Gullit occupied an increasingly advanced role in midfield, having played predominantly as a sweeper at Haarlem.[10] While at Feyenoord Gullit became the focus of a race row as manager Thijs Libregts was alleged to have referred to Gullit as "blackie" and criticised him for being lazy, though Libregts defended himself by claiming that it was merely a nickname.[11] While playing for Feyenoord at St Mirren in September 1983 he was racially abused and spat on by Scottish supporters.[12] Gullit called it "the saddest night of my life".[13]

PSV Eindhoven

Gullit at a press conference in October 2010

In 1985, he moved to PSV for ƒ1.2 million (), and wound up scoring 46 goals in 68 league appearances for the team. Gullit was again named Footballer of the Year in 1986 as he helped PSV capture the Eredivisie crown, a feat they repeated the following year. It was at PSV that Gullit really began to establish himself as a world class footballer and his distinctive, dreadlocked appearance made certain that he would catch the eye of Europe's biggest clubs. Gullit was also singled out for criticism by large numbers of Feyernoord supporters, who branded him a "wolf" and accused him of moving to Eindhoven for money.[14]


Silvio Berlusconi signed Gullit for A.C. Milan in 1987, paying the then world record transfer fee of ƒ18 million ( million) as a replacement for Ray Wilkins. Among his teammates at that club were compatriots Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, along with Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi. Gullit's exploits with first PSV and then Milan helped him win the European Footballer of the Year award in 1987 which he dedicated to Nelson Mandela.[15]

When he arrived at Milan, Gullit initially struggled to settle as he spoke no Italian and was unused to living in a foreign country.[16] However, Gullit's first season at Milan saw the club win Scudetto for the first time in 9 years, under coach Arrigo Sacchi. He was initially used on the right of an attacking trio alongside Van Basten and Pietro Virdis, but after an injury to Van Basten it was changed to a front two. The following season Milan built on their domestic success by adding the European Cup to their list of honours. Their scintillating 5–0 demolition of Real Madrid in the semi-final second leg came at a cost, as Gullit suffered an injury and required surgery to be fit in time for the final. That performance was followed by a 4–0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in the 1989 final with Gullit scoring two crucial goals. The following year Milan retained the trophy as they defeated Benfica in the 1990 final. However, serious injuries sustained to the ligaments of his right knee limited Gullit's playing time and he managed just 2 domestic games in the 1989–90 season before appearing in the cup final.

In 1990–91 Milan's pursuit of a third consecutive European Cup was cut short by Olympique de Marseille at the quarter-final stage. Having drawn the first leg at the San Siro, Milan trailed to a Chris Waddle goal with little time remaining when the floodlights went out. After a short delay the lighting was restored, but Milan had returned to their dressing room and refused to return to complete the game. UEFA awarded Marseille a 3–0 victory and expelled Milan from all European competitions for the following season.

While Milan continued their domestic dominance by winning Serie A in both 1991–92 (a season in which they went undefeated) and 1992–93, Gullit's position was an increasingly peripheral one. This was demonstrated by his omission from the UEFA Champions League Final 1993 final as under the UEFA rules clubs were only allowed to field 3 foreigners.


In 1993, Gullit moved to Sampdoria and led them to victory in the Italian Cup in the 1993/4 season. He also scored the winner in a 3–2 victory over AC Milan. He was briefly re-signed by a very impressed AC Milan in 1994, but quickly returned to Sampdoria before the culmination of the 1994/5 season. During his time at Sampdoria, he served under manager Sven Goran Erikson and the two had a strong understanding and mutual respect. In his brief time at Sampdoria he managed 15 goals.


In July 1995, he signed for Chelsea on a free transfer. Initially played as sweeper by manager Glenn Hoddle with limited success, Gullit was moved to his more familiar role in midfield, where he scored six goals. The signing of Gullit, alongside the likes of Mark Hughes and Dan Petrescu, propelled Chelsea to the semi-final of the FA Cup but their league form was disappointing.

Gullit had some difficulties adapting to the style of play at Chelsea, "I would take a difficult ball, control it, make space and play a good ball in front of the right back, except that he didn't want that pass. Eventually Glenn said to me, ‘Ruud, it would be better if you do these things in midfield’."[17] However, his adjustment was rapid and he ended the season by being named runner-up to Eric Cantona as Footballer of the Year.

Gullit has since often stated in interviews that it was in London he enjoyed his career the most and felt happiest, "Every time I played for Chelsea, I thought, ‘Nice game, beautiful stadium, great crowd, I’m playing well’. It was the only time I really had fun.”.[17] In moving to Chelsea, Gullit played an important part in the "foreign revolution" as numerous high profile international stars, such as the Italian superstar Gianfranco Zola who became a Chelsea legend, and the Dutch magician Dennis Bergkamp, joined Premiership clubs and helped to increase its worldwide profile.

National team

Ruud Gullit in 1988

In 1981, on his 19th birthday, Gullit made his international debut as a substitute for the Netherlands national team against Switzerland, a game the Dutch lost 2–1.

Gullit's early international career was marred by disappointment as the team failed to qualify for the 1982 FIFA World Cup and Euro 84. The Netherlands missed out in 1984 on goals scored as Spain trounced minnows Malta 12–1 in their final qualifying game, when they needed an 11 goal victory to qualify.

There was further disappointment in 1986 when the Dutch missed out on qualification for the away goals.

However, Gullit was one of the key players for the Netherlands helping his country win the Euro 1988 under coach Rinus Michels. Having lost their opening game of the tournament to the Soviet Union, the Netherlands beat England and Republic of Ireland to reach the semi-finals. After defeating West Germany 2–1 in Hamburg the Netherlands faced the Soviet Union again in the final. Gullit opened the scoring with a well-placed header and Marco van Basten scored an incredible volley to cap a 2–0 win. Gullit was thus the first Dutch captain to hold aloft international silverware.

The Dutch travelled to the 1990 World Cup as one of the favourites, but the team failed to perform as expected. Gullit's knee injuries clearly hampered his play, and his only moment of brilliance was a superb dribble and shot against Ireland which helped the Netherlands qualify for the second round. There they met West Germany in one of the most exciting games of the tournament, though the game was marred by an altercation between Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Völler. The Germans gained revenge for their defeat at Euro 88, by beating the Netherlands 2–1 and going on to win the tournament.

1992 saw the Netherlands again among the favourites for silverware in Sweden at Euro 1992. Gullit appeared in imperious form against Scotland in their opening game of the tournament as he supplied Dennis Bergkamp with an easy goal. But after drawing with Russia and beating Germany, the Netherlands suffered a shock exit on penalties to Denmark, who ended up winning the championship's Henri Delaunay Trophy.

In 1993, Gullit and Netherlands manager Dick Advocaat began what was to be a long running dispute which ultimately ended Gullit's international career. Advocaat's decision to play Gullit on the right-side of midfield, in a game against England at Wembley, rather than his usual central position upset Gullit and this was exacerbated by his substitution for Marc Overmars.[11] Gullit refused to play for the national team following this but later changed his mind and agreed to return, facing Scotland in May 1994. Shortly before the 1994 World Cup, Gullit walked out of pre-tournament training camp and would never play international football again.

Playing style

Gullit epitomised the ethos of Total Football as he was naturally adept in several positions. His foremost attribute was his athleticism, as he used his strength and speed to great effect, as well as being excellent in the air, as he was tall and an excellent jumper.[18] Yet, unusually for a man of his stature, Gullit also possessed outstanding natural balance and poise that gave a graceful style to his game. Gullit also was noted for his intelligence and spatial abilities, qualities that helped him score goals early in his career and enabled him to play deeper late in his days. Gullit thus combined physical presence with mental acuity and formidable technique and natural touch to become an iconic figure in world football.[19]

Gullit's brilliance prompted Maradona. Both have the key quality you will find in all the best players: balance. You just can't knock them off the ball. It was the same with Pelé, Beckenbauer and Cruijff."[20]

Managerial career


In the summer of 1996, when Glenn Hoddle left Chelsea to become manager of the England national team, Gullit was appointed as a player-manager. Gullit made a promising start to his managerial career when in the first season as a player-manager he guided Chelsea to an FA Cup triumph in 1997, the club's first major trophy in 26 years. Gullit became the first non-British manager to win a major trophy in England. The club also finished at a creditable sixth place in the Premiership.

The following season, with Chelsea in second place in the Premiership and proceeding to the quarterfinals in two cup competitions, he was sacked, allegedly for a disagreement with the club's board over the compensation, though Gullit himself disputed this.[21] He was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, a man he had helped to bring to the club, and who went on to guide them to UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and Football League Cup glory over the remainder of the season. Gullit's last appearance as a player came in the first leg of that season's Football League Cup semi final against Arsenal but Gullit was sacked before the second leg.[22] After Gullit's controversial sacking by Chelsea, chairman Ken Bates famously said of Gullit – "I didn't like his arrogance – in fact I never liked him".[23]

Newcastle United

In August 1998, he was named manager of Newcastle United F.C. two games into the new league season. Fans soon began to turn against him after a poor run of results, and a well-publicised contretemps with the team's top scorer Alan Shearer and captain Robert Lee did not put him in a favourable light.[24] Gullit even refused to assign Lee a squad number, giving Lee's number 7 to new signing Kieron Dyer. In a match between Newcastle and local rivals Sunderland following the latter's return to the Premiership, Gullit left the usual starting strikers Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson on the bench. Newcastle lost 2–1, and Gullit resigned three days later, five games into the 1999–2000 season.[25]

Feyenoord Rotterdam

Before the start of the 2004–05 season, he took charge of Feyenoord, quitting at the end of that season without winning any trophies to be replaced by Erwin Koeman. Feyenoord had finished a disappointing fourth in the Eredivisie, behind Ajax, PSV and AZ.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Gullit with Cobi Jones at Galaxy.

On 8 November 2007, Gullit became head coach for the Los Angeles Galaxy, signing a 3-year contract.[26] His $2 million per year salary was the highest ever given to an MLS head coach. Gullit arrived as replacement for Frank Yallop who was let go after Galaxy failed to make the 2007 MLS playoffs despite having a record signing David Beckham on the roster.

From the start, Gullit's time with Galaxy was troublesome. Not well-versed in the intricacies and specifics of the Major League Soccer such as salary cap and draft rules, the Dutchman never adapted well to the North American league. The ill-fated January 2008 acquisition of left back Celestine Babayaro (who was brought in on Gullit's personal wishes before getting dismissed quickly and unceremoniously without even getting a chance to play any competitive matches due to extreme lack of commitment in preseason) set the tone for the league campaign that was about to start. After getting blown out 0–4 in the season opener, Gullit clashed with midfielder Peter Vagenas who criticized him for completely neglecting set play practice during training.

As the season progressed Gullit would clash with just about every player, notably Landon Donovan and also Abel Xavier who criticized the Dutchman's managerial style claiming he did not have respect for most of the players.[27] Eventually, it also came out that Gullit's very appointment came in controversial fashion as Galaxy general manager at the time Alexi Lalas got bypassed in the process with the decision coming straight from Beckham's personal handlers – his management company 19 Entertainment as well as his personal manager Terry Byrne.[28]

On 11 August 2008, Gullit resigned as coach from the Los Angeles Galaxy citing personal reasons. This came following a seven-game winless streak. General manager Alexi Lalas was fired on the same occasion.[29]

Terek Grozny

On 18 January 2011, FC Terek Grozny, a Russian Premier League football club announced that Gullit has agreed to sign a year-and-a-half contract and become the head coach for the Chechen side. Gullit told Sovetsky Sport: "I'd like to believe that I can bring joy into the lives of the Chechen people through football [...] Of course, I won't deny that I'm getting lots of money from Terek."[30] Gullit was sacked by the club on 14 June 2011, having only won 3 games as manager. The club also said Gullit had a "party lifestyle".

Media career

In 1988 Gullit scored a No.3 hit with the anti-apartheid song "South Africa" in the Dutch Top 40 together with the reggae band Revelation Time. Previously he had a modest hit in 1984 with the song "Not the Dancing Kind".

After his spell at Newcastle, Gullit spent several years working as a football commentator, having previously coined the term "sexy football"[31] during his spell as a BBC pundit during Euro 96 which was at a time Gullit was still playing professionally for Chelsea. Gullit used the term to describe teams, such as Portugal at that tournament,[32] who played attractive football with an emphasis on the defense-penetrating pass-and-move game.

By 2006, Gullit had a talk show on Dutch TV, where he has interviewed, amongst others, Nelson Mandela.[15] When Gullit was named winner of the Ballon d'Or in 1987, he dedicated the award to the then imprisoned Nelson Mandela. At the time, Gullit was signed to AC Milan and the Italians raised their eyebrows, "Nelson who?". Gullit tried to explain and they said, "Oh, a footballer with political beliefs". Gullit has since in interviews told that he met Nelson Mandela after he was released and Mandela said, "Ruud, I have lots of friends now. When I was on the inside, you were one of the few".[17]

In 2007 Gullit recalled, "Four months ago I visited Robben Island and met three guys who were cell-mates of Nelson Mandela. They remembered my dedicating my award in 1987 to Mandela and they said they couldn’t believe what I had done, and were sure the football authorities would withdraw the award. That's what apartheid did to them, it made them believe injustice was a normal part of life."[17]

He also appeared as a pundit for ITV during the 2006 FIFA World Cup and works as an analyst for the UEFA Champions League games on Sky Sports and Al Jazeera Sports. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Gullit worked as a studio analyst alongside former players Jürgen Klinsmann and Steve McManaman for ESPN .[33] He subsequently worked as an analyst for Al Jazeera Sports during UEFA Euro 2012 alongside Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables among others.[34]

In 2013, Gullit and many other former footballers were brought into FIFA 14 as "Legends" cards in FIFA Ultimate Team. His card is one of the highest rated in the game.

In 2014, Gullit joined BBC's Match of the Day as a studio pundit and first appeared during the 2014/15 season.[35]

Personal life

Gullit has been married three times and has six children, two from each of his marriages.[36]


Gullit was sponsored in 1990 to wear a black and white football boot made by Italian sports brand Lotto. The boot he wore was the Lotto Stadio 90, a boot which was initially created for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.


Gullit was made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau on 27 June 1988.

Career statistics


Netherlands national team[39][40]
Year Apps Goals
1981 1 0
1982 5 1
1983 6 4
1984 4 0
1985 4 0
1986 6 1
1987 6 5
1988 8 2
1989 2 0
1990 9 1
1991 4 1
1992 8 2
1993 2 0
1994 1 0
Total 66 17

Further reading

  • Glanville, Brian (1999). Footballers Don't Cry. 
  • Gullit, Ruud (1998). My Autobiography. 
  • Harris, Harry (1996). Ruud Gullit: Portrait of a Genius. 


  1. ^ "'"Vader Gullit beschuldigt 'arrogante Ajacieden. 1 June 1994. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "The history of the world transfer record". BBC News. Retrieved 10 May 2014
  3. ^ "Pele's list of the greatest". BBC Sport. 4 March 2004. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Walsh, David (23 September 2007). "The Big Interview: Ruud Gullit". The Sunday Times. The Times. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Ruud Gullit, My Autobiography, p31
  6. ^ Ruud Gullit, My Autobiography, p34
  7. ^ a b Ruud Gullit, My Autobiography, p35
  8. ^ Glanville p3
  9. ^ Shaw, Phil (16 August 1994). "The Import Trade: Adventurers in search of the English experience: From Max Seeburg to Jurgen Klinsmann foreigners have brought variety to the domestic game.".  
  10. ^ Glanville p1
  11. ^ a b Glanville, p4
  12. ^ Smith, Adrian; Porter, Dilwyn (2004). Sport and national identity in the post-war world. p. 83.  
  13. ^ Old Firm fans are worst for race hate The Daily Mirror 8 January 2000
  14. ^ Ruud Gullit, My Autobiography, p42
  15. ^ a b Doyle, Paul (9 September 2005). "Ruud Gullit". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  16. ^ Ruud Gullit, My Autobiography, p49
  17. ^ a b c d Walsh, David (23 September 2007). "The Big Interview Ruud Gullit". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Glanville, p3
  19. ^ McRae, Donald (22 May 2007). "Memories of past magic fire Gullit's enduring passion for Milan". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Andrew Godsell, Europe United (2005), p129
  21. ^ "Gullit in shock over Chelsea sacking". BBC News. 13 February 1998. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  22. ^ "Hughes revives hope for ragged Chelsea".  
  23. ^ Newcastle's Freddy Shepherd, Chelsea's Ken Bates, Leeds' Peter Ridsdale, Palace's Simon Jordan and the Top 10 crazy football chairman – Mirror Football Blog – MirrorFootball.c...
  24. ^ Robert Lee Interview
  25. ^ Ruud Resigns
  26. ^ "LA Galaxy name Gullit as new boss".  
  27. ^ – Major League Soccer – McCarthy: Xavier Speaks Out Against Gullit
  28. ^ Out of his league: Has David Beckham's American dream turned into a nightmare?; Daily Mail, 8 August 2009
  29. ^ Soccernet. "Report: Galaxy coach Gullit resigns; president/GM Lalas out". Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  30. ^ Chechnya's hardman Ramzan Kadyrov hires football big guns to take the offensive against Russian giant, Guardian
  31. ^ Sexy Football's Newest Icons? – OhmyNews International
  32. ^ FourFourTwo, March 2006
  33. ^ Ruud Gullit, Studio Analyst, 2010 FIFA World Cup – ESPN MediaZone.
  34. ^ "Gullit keen on Netherlands job". ESPN. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Gullit's six children
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ruud Gullit - Career Honours". Soccerway. 
  38. ^ "Fifa names greatest list". BBC. 
  39. ^ "Ruud Gullit". National Football Teams. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  40. ^ "Ruud Gullit international goals". Retrieved 30 June 2011. 

External links

  • Gullit's international record (Dutch)
  • Ruud Gullit management career stats at Soccerbase
  • Gullit's emotional South African journey – – FIFA, 2007 – retrieved 20 July.
  • Ruud Gullit profile and stats at Wereld van Oranje (Dutch)
  • European Champions Cup/UEFA Champions League Winning Squads
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