ESPN’s coverage plans for the World Cup continue to get more detailed and exciting. Ruud Gullit, who is one of the most significant figures in Football over the past twenty five years, has been hired to provide commentary for the network.
Gullit is best remembered as World Player of the Year both with PSV and AC Milan, as well as being the manager who brought Chelsea its first domestic silverware in over twenty five years. Gullit’s hiring is especially significant for this particular World Cup as he dedicated his 1987 World Player of the Year award to then jailed Nelson Mandela.
Gullit won three Scudetto’s with AC Milan, as well as three European Cups/Champions Leagues. Gullit’s signifgance as a manager in the Premier League has been undersold. He developed the first truly cosmopolitan side in English club football history at Chelsea, signing players such as Zola and Vialli from England, Petrescu from Romania and Frank LeBoeuf from France.
LeBoeuf will also be part of ESPN’s commentary team and has already joined the network for occasional Press Pass appearances.
Gullit, will no doubt be critiqued by some MLS fans as lacking the credibility to cover the World Cup for an American audience after his firing by the Los Angeles Galaxy. While some MLS oriented fans may minimize the importance of the Gullit hiring, those who support Chelsea, or Milan have very different memories of the man.
Additionally, Gullit’s brand name among general fans of World Football is very high. After a World Cup in 2006, where ESPN’s credibility was undermined by the use of Baseball announcers and jingoistic code throughout the telecasts, 2010 appears to have a different bent.
The hiring of Gullit was preceded by Martin Tyler, Efan Ekoku and Steve McManaman, all individuals of impeccable reputations and credibility as broadcasters. ESPN’s coverage will also be enhanced by the hiring of Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez and the continued presence of LeBoeuf and former West Ham/Pompey Goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.
The hiring of Gullit brings an unmatched credibility to ESPN’s coverage. A commentator who has been highly sought after in Holland and England, Gullit’s sharp opinions have helped to characterize the success of Sky Sports and ITV’s football coverage.
Gullit’s task will be to bring the same controversial, but razor sharp analysis of the game to an American audience that he has been so successfully critiqued for across the pond.
ESPN has a choice with the versatile Gullit: he can be used as a studio analyst, alongside Steve McManaman or used as a match commentator alongside Martin Tyler, Derek Rae or Adrian Healey. Either way, ESPN cannot lose with the hard core World Football fan.