Ruud Gullit: MLS on the Map
Well Alexi Lalas said he wanted a sexy name and if published reports are to be believed he got one. Ruud Gullit may not be the right manager for the Galaxy but he certainly has a name in the world of international football, which will create yet another publicity splash for a club so lacking in on field performance but with a Hollywood air to it.
Gullit’s previous managerial stints have not ended well. At Chelsea he was sorely out of his league as a player but did well as a manager winning the FA Cup and having Chelsea in line to chase the Premier League title before being sacked after a dispute with Ken Bates. At Newcastle he in inherited a gutted from Kenny Dalglish (who had taken over a great team from Kevin Keagan) and didn’t last very long. He clashed frequently with Alan Shearer and found himself sacked after less than a year in charge.
But Gullit is best remembered as a player. No offense to the current starlet in Los Angeles, but Gullit was a much more significant footballer on the world stage than David Beckham. Gullit was twice named world player of the year and was immensely versatile per the “Total Football” model Dutch teams employed at the time. By the time Gullit arrived at Chelsea after a long career in Italy and Holland his skills and quality had diminished but he was one of the first international footballers of note to play in England and if he comes to MLS he will be one of the first international managers of note since the early days of MLS (when several big name foreign managers graced our shores) to arrive stateside.
While MLS is clearly not at the level of the Premier League in sophistication of tactics and overall quality (but not technical ability which quite frankly was lacking in the Premiership throughout the 1990s, but has now caught up to the rest of Europe) managing in the United States will take some vetting. Firstly, managing travel in MLS is a monster for any manager coming from outside. Teams don’t have chartered coaches to take short 200km journeys like they do in England. In MLS, teams fly cross country in economy class and often have shortened weeks. The fact that the Galaxy will not be participating in any international competitions next year is good for Gullit if he takes the job because that makes managing the travel less daunting. Secondly, most rank in file American players lack the tactical know how to play disciplined 90 minute football. This isn’t meant as insult to our younger player but the reality is our emphasis in coaching youth soccer is very different from what is emphasized in Europe and Latin America. Thirdly, Gullit presumably faces a language barrier. I assume he does not know Spanish, but a good percentage of the players in MLS as well as the press who covers MLS speak Spanish as their native tongue. Knowing the language is essential for managing in most MLS markets.
Irrespective of these obstacles, if Gullit is hired the Galaxy would have made a very loud statement to the international football world about its place. Alexi Lalas would have also fulfilled his promise to make a “sexy” hire. Now the Galaxy need to begin playing like a football club and not a celebrity circus who acts as sacrificial lambs on every road trip to another MLS market.