Johan Cruyffs influence is still felt but the decline of Dutch clubs and “the member states national” squad contribute to conflict about how the future should be shaped, Ruud Gullit tells Donald McRae
Autumn has come early to Amsterdam but, on the first Sunday in September, a rainy afternoon renders way to watery sunshine as Ruud Gullit arrives with a cheerful movement. The calmer currency of his glory these days, even in the Netherlands, symbolizes Gullit is in an accommodating feeling an hour before our interrogation is due to begin. In a change from hanging around for a young sport celebrity, whose flair could never pair the greatnes of Gullit in the 1980 s, the great old-time footballer has suggested this earlier start as a direction of pulling our time together.
Thirty-five years ago last week, on 1 September 1981, on his 19 th birthday, Gullit shaped his debut for Holland. He played team football for Haarlem and, then, he was still a season away from joining Feyenoord, where he would eventually star alongside Johan Cruyff.
Now five months have slipped past since Cruyff died amid an outburst of awe for his job as a player and manager. Gullit and Cruyff were always more than merely team-mates. When I interviewed Cruyff two years ago he insisted that, as a musician, he gave up his lieu at the helm of Dutch football to Gullit who eventually married his niece. Estelle Cruyff was Gullits third wife and, after his longest wedlock of 13 times, part of his third divorce.
So much has changed in Dutch football since Cruyff and Gullit were at their regal heydays in a period covering nearly 20 years from the early 1970 s, when Holland were subsequent World cup finals finalists and too European champs. But they failed miserably to be eligible for Euro 2016 and Dutch club football is a shadow of the sumptuous dominance once exemplified by Ajax.
In Holland we are continuing think we know everything, Gullit says wryly as he tucks into a Dutch cheese toastie. We pride ourselves on how good we were with Cruyff in 1974. The same as 1988[ when Gullit resulted Holland to win in the European Championship ]. But thats a long time ago. So maybe we dont know everything. Perhaps we need something more.
It seems harrowing to converge Gullit at the end of a few months in which he had been at the heart of the latest Dutch soap opera. After admitting an offer to become Danny Blinds deputy coach-and-four to the national unit, Gullit changed his mind four days later. Amid the chaotic details of why he spurned Holland, when he emerged determined to re-establish his coaching pedigree, Gullit talks with surging passion. At the moment Dutch football is a mess, he says. It pains me because I crave Holland to go to the World Cup.
After the leaving of Guus Hiddink, who had been chosen ahead of Ronald Koeman, Blind was commissioned head coach-and-four. His assistant, Dick Advocaat, left his upright suddenly to meets Fenerbahce and the KNVB( the Dutch FA) turned to Gullit, who then fell out with Hans van Breukelen, the brand-new technical chairman and another of his former team-mates. Van Breukelen too questioned the team-manger Hans Jorritsma to leave in policy decisions the players opposed just as Hollands World Cup qualifying expedition began.
I found out more about these problems at the top tier, Gullit exhales. Bert van Oostveen, the chairman, is also well resigned. So I said if you still need me once you have resolved such problems, then come back to me. But not like this. This was a very good decision by my criteria because my nerve says yes but my mentality said: Not now, Ruud.
If you always shout from up high that things are not going well and have an opportunity to got something, you take it. So I said: Yes, I want to do it. But I expected one question: Im now assistant manager what happens if Blind extends like Hiddink proceeded? They said: Then you take this position. I said: Not under this contract, I hope. They said: No, of course not. We would talk about a new contract. I said: Good. Can you give that in this contract?[ Van Breukelen] said: No. You have to rely me. I asked him: If you get fired what happens? Do I have to trust the next person?
Two days later Marco van Basten[ another aide coach and Gullits former team-mate at Milan] announces me. He says: Ruudy, you need to know I am on the brink of leaving to go work with Fifa. The soldier who was enter into negotiations with me was already enter into negotiations with Marco. But he said nothing to me. And he wants me to trust him? I was so pretty pissed. I said[ to van Breukelen ]: Come on! You should have told me. Why should I do it? For 75,000[ a year ]?
A year? I question, when such summarizes are paid often on a weekly basis in football.
Really a year! Gullit giggles. I said: You can keep it. I made a very wise decision. But I was so disappointed.
In his new notebook, which offers an intriguing counterpoint to Cruyffs systems and philosophies, Gullit scorns the old-time Dutch love for 4-3-3 and hears a different kind of grace in alternative ways of playing which extend from his own past success with Milans mastery of 4-4-2 to the punishment guild of Diego Simeones Atltico Madrid.
When asked if Ajax have moved away from 4-3-3, Gullit utters in disbelief. No! They played last-place month in Rostov[ in a Champions League qualifier which they lost 4-1] and were erased off the pitch by persuasivenes and hasten. This is why I wrote the book to try to be more open-minded. Ajax say we must play football with the relevant principles of Cruyff. I said to myself: Is that so? When Johan became manager at Ajax who did he buy? Ronald Spelbos a fucking robust defender who are able to kick you and simply give the dance from A to B. Same with Jan Wouters. Ask Paul Gascoigne if he knows Jan Wouters.
Gascoignes cheekbone was ruptured by Wouters elbow in a 1993 World cup finals qualifier and he wore a Phantom of the Opera mask for months afterwards. Of route, Gullit grins. Thats the kind of participate Johan needed in midfield at Ajax. Those were his first key signings with Danny Blind, a defender who could also romp. I said to the Ajax parties: Where is your doctrine of Johan Cruyff now? Why are you not having the various kinds of actors he linked?
Gullit had just turned 20 where reference is began to play alongside Cruyff at Feyenoord. I was more strange than anything, he recollects. He was 36 when he came to Feyenoord. There were times when I conceived: OK , now Im going to get the ball off him but I couldnt. I was thoughts: Thirty-six? Imagine how good he must have been at 24? While we were playing he was indicating to the players where to stand, where to move, navigating them.
At the end of the year he told me: Ruud, the next guild you go to, be prepared for the fact that beings wont looks just like you any more. Likewise, “youre going to” reach others around you play better. I was thinking: Okaaaayyy I still have to give attention to my own career. How can I facilitate others? But when I went to PSV and then Milan the problem unexpectedly fitted together. I remembered everything Johan had said.
Cruyff told me he was convinced Holland were the real winners of the 1974 World Cup. They lost the final to West Germany but Cruyff argued that Hollands football had been remembered far more vividly. Thats nonsense, Gullit affirms. Sometimes in Holland we fool ourselves. The Germans were very good. Morally you are able to acquire the hearts of the person or persons. But its still about removing the award. Johan and me ever had these discussions because he had grown up with 4-3-3.
For him it was the only channel. But I said: Examine, at AC Milan we won year after year with 4-4-2. He would say: Yeah but thats because But there was no because. As we say in Holland: There are different ways to reach Rome. I would tell Johan: You can only play your system with very good players. He could do it with Barcelona but not when he was at Levante[ in 1981 ].
Did Cruyff acknowledge the supremacy of Milan when, galvanised by the Dutch trio of Gullit, Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard they won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990? Of track. But for him football is perfect with 4-3-3 and the Barcelona way.
In his notebook Gullit shows some doubt that Barcelona would acquire the Premier League if they were subjected to the weekly physical grind of English football. Im not saying they certainly has not been able to win the Premier League, he clarifies. Im just saying I dont know if they would.