Full Name: Ruud Dil Gullit
Date of Birth: 1/9/1962
Ruud Gullit is one of the most prestigious and accomplished Dutch players in the history of the game. During the 1980s and 90s Gullit dominated the international football arena and was an instrumental part of the victorious Dutch side in the 88’ European Championships. He was awarded European Footballer of the Year in 1987 and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1987 and 1989.
Like many Dutch footballers, Gullit was raised in the ‘Total Football’ school. He was an incredibly versatile player and during his career, played as a defender, midfielder and forward! In a highly distinguished playing career, Gullit made appearances for many top European teams, notably, PSV Eindhoven, AC Milan, UC Sampdoria and Chelsea FC.
Gullit began crafting his skills from a very early age on the streets of Amsterdam, where it is reported he used to play alongside Frank Rijkaard. When the young Gullit was playing in the youth side DWS, he came to the attention of the Dutch Youth team, where he played alongside other Dutch greats such as Erwin Koeman, Ronald Koeman and Wim Kieft.
He was then approached by top Dutch club Ajax and invited to visit them for a trial. However, Gullit eventually joined HFC Haarlem, later describing the arrogance of Ajax as one of the reasons for his decision.
Shortly after, Gullit was signed to professional football by HFC Haarlem at the tender age of 16, which made him the youngest professional footballer to have appeared in the Dutch professional division. For HFC Haarlem, Gullit made 91 appearances, scoring 32 goals. Although in his first season at the club HFC Haarlem were relegated, Gullit was the force that propelled them back into the top flight the following season, and he won player of the division that year for his efforts. The 1981-2 season brought yet more success for the young player, as he guided the club to a 4th place finishing position, gifting them qualification into Europe for the first time in their history. Gullit claims to have scored the most memorable goal of his career that season against Utrecht, in which he went past four defenders and then the goalkeeper to score.
During this period, Gullit had understandably attracted considerable interest from some of the top clubs in Holland. In 1982 he signed for Feyenoord for a fee of £300,000. At Feyenoord, Gullit had the honour of playing alongside Dutch legend, Johaan Cruyff. In his second season, Feyenoord claimed the league and cup double and he was named Dutch Footballer of the Year. In his 3 years at the club he made 85 appearances and scored a total of 30 goals.
In 1985 Gullit moved to big Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. In 68 appearances for the club, he scored 46 goals, improving upon the average he had set with his first two clubs. PSV were crowned champions in 1986 and ’87 and Gullit was once again named Dutch Footballer of the Year.
Shortly after this, Gullit made his move abroad, after being snapped up by Italian giants AC Milan, led by Silvio Berlusconi. The star-studded club included Dutch colleagues Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, plus Italian legend Paolo Maldini. Gullit was soon incorporated into the attacking front two, due to the injury of Van Basten. By the following season, AC Milan were flying high, winning the European Cup. In the second leg of the semi final they demolished Real Madrid 5-0 and then went onto beat Steau Bucharest in the final 4-0, with Gullit netting the ball twice.
The victory in the European Cup would prove to be the high point of Gullit’s club playing career, as that year (1987) he was also awarded European Player of the Year. He dedicated the award, in a gesture of political solidarity, to Nelson Mandela, who was then still imprisoned in South Africa. In later years, Mandela cited Gullit as one of the only friends who supported him throughout his time in prison. The following season, AC Milan were eliminated by Olympique Marseille from the tournament and prevented from returning the next season due to their refusal to return to the field of play following a floodlight failure in the Marseille stadium.
Some of Gullit’s greatest goals and contributions to this great AC Milan team can be seen here.
Gullit moved to Sampdoria in 1993 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.
With his playing career drawing towards a close, Gullit signed for Chelsea on a free transfer in July 1995. At this point, Chelsea were a mid-table team who had recently made several high-profile signings including Mark Hughes and Dan Petruscu. Glenn Hoddle, who was manager at the time, was instigating a “foreign revolution” at the club. Gullit eventually ended up playing in his stronger midfield position and that season was named runner-up to Eric Cantona as Footballer of the Year.
Ruud Gullit made his international debut at the age of 19 as a substitute against Switzerland. In his early international career for Holland, he experienced very little success. The Dutch failed to qualify for the 1982 Fifa World Cup, Euro ’84 and the 1986 World Cup tournament, falling at the hands of Belgium in the qualifying round.
Fortunes reversed drastically for the Dutch in 1988 as they passed the qualification round with ease, to enter the Euro ’88 competition held in the former West Germany. They beat England and the Republic of Ireland to reach the semi-final stage and went on to knock out West Germany in a tense 2-1 victory. In the final they faced the USSR, who had beaten them in their first game of the tournament. However, the Dutch started well and Gullit opened the scoring with a header. Van Basten sealed the victory with an incredible volley, one of the most famous international goals of all time.
Holland were unable to match this performance in Italia ’90 and in Sweden ’92, despite being among the favourites on both occasions. In 1994 Gullit walked away from international football, after a couple of fierce rows with Dutch coach Dick Advocaat.
Overall, Gullit won 66 caps for his country and scored 17 international goals. He also won Italy’s Serie A three times, the Dutch title three times, the Champions League/European Cup twice, as well as numerous domestic cups. He was also fundamental to Holland’s 1988 European Championship victory. In a career total of 495 appearances, Gullit scored a grand total of 183 goals making him a true legend.
Whilst playing with Chelsea, Gullit was promoted to the position of player-manager when Glenn Hoddle took on the England role in 1996. He made a miraculous start to his managing career by guiding Chelsea to an FA Cup victory in 1997. This was their first silverware in 26 years and made Gullit the first foreign manager to win the FA cup.
Surrounded by controversial circumstances, Ken Bates sacked Gullit from the club in 1998. Despite Chelsea sitting in second place in the league and being in the quarter-finals of two cup competitions, Gianlucca Vialli took over at the club. In many interviews, Ruud has described how hurt and disillusioned he felt after his treatment at the hands of the Chelsea board of directors.
Following this, Gullit very quickly accepted the managerial position at Newcastle Utd, although perhaps for the wrong reasons. Many felt that he accepted the job solely to prove Chelsea wrong. After a promising start with the club, which saw them reach the FA Cup final, things began to deteriorate between Gullit and the Newcastle fans and players, and he resigned at the beginning of the 1999-00 season.
Later, he joined FC Feyenoord for a brief period, stepping down after a disappointing 4th place finish in the league. In November 2007, Gullit was appointed manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy, signing a 3 year contract. In Los Angeles, Gullit has the job of managing David Beckham and contributing to the emerging soccer revolution in the States.
Apart from managing, Gullit has also worked as a commentator and TV pundit for the BBC, ITV and Sky Sports on various occasions, whilst also maintaining his role as a presenter of a Dutch TV talk show. During this show, he has interviewed many famous people, including his political idol Nelson Mandela.
- Netherlands Player of the Year (2nd level): 1981
- Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1984
- Netherlands Cup Top Scorer: 1984
- Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1986
- Dutch Golden Shoe Winner: 1986
- Netherlands League Silver Top Scorer: 1986
- European Footballer of the Year: 1987
- Dutch Sportsman of the Year: 1987
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1987
- Onze d’Argent: 1988
- Silver World Soccer Player of the Year: 1988
- Bronze Best World Player of the Year IFFHS: 1988
- Ballon d’Argent: 1988
- Onze d’Argent: 1989
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1989
- Silver Best Player of the Year UEFA : 1989
- Bronze Best World Player of the Year IFFHS: 1989
- Bronze World Soccer Magazine World Footballer of the Year: 1993
- Silver Ball English League Player of the Year: 1996
- Best Player of the Year Chelsea: 1996
- Named in FIFA 100 Greatest Living Footballers: 2004
|1979–1982||HFC Haarlem||91 (32)|
|1987–1993||AC Milan||117 (35)|
|1994||AC Milan||8 (3)|