Johan Cruyffs influence is still find but the decline of Dutch fraternities and “the member states national” unit 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 presents way to watery sunshine as Ruud Gullit arrives with a cheerful wave. The calmer currency of his renown these days, even in the Netherlands, makes Gullit is in an altering climate an hour before our interview is due to begin. In a change from hanging around for a young sporting luminary, whose flair could never parallel the glare of Gullit in the 1980 s, the largest old footballer has suggested this earlier start as a practice of stretching our time together.
Thirty-five years ago last week, on 1 September 1981, on his 19 th birthday, Gullit attained his debut for Holland. He played guild football for Haarlem and, then, he was still a season away from joining Feyenoord, where he was ultimately star alongside Johan Cruyff.
Now five months have declined past since Cruyff succumbed amid an outburst of awe for his occupation as a actor and coach. Gullit and Cruyff were always more than precisely team-mates. When I interviewed Cruyff two years ago he was of the view that, as a player, he gave up his neighbourhood at the helm of Dutch football to Gullit who eventually marriage his niece. Estelle Cruyff was Gullits third wife and, after his longest union of 13 years, part of his third divorce.
So much has changed in Dutch football since Cruyff and Gullit were at their regal heydays in a period spanning nearly 20 times from the early 1970 s, when Holland were successive World Cup finalists and too European champions. But they flunked miserably to be eligible for Euro 2016 and Dutch club football is a shadow of the elegant ability once exemplified by Ajax.
In Holland we still think we know everything, Gullit says wryly as he folds into a Dutch cheese toastie. We pride ourselves on how good we were with Cruyff in 1974. The same as 1988[ when Gullit passed Holland to succes in the European Championship ]. But thats long ago. So maybe we dont know everything. Maybe we need something more.
It seems harrowing to assemble Gullit at the end of a few months in which he had been at the heart of the latest Dutch soap opera. After abiding an offer to become Danny Blinds auxiliary tutor to the national squad, Gullit changed his knowledge four weeks later. Amid the tumultuous details of why he scorned Holland, when he appeared have decided to re-establish his coaching pedigree, Gullit talks with surging feeling. At the moment Dutch football is a mess, he says. It suffers me because I want Holland to go to the World Cup.
After the departure of Guus Hiddink, who had been chosen ahead of Ronald Koeman, Blind was constituted head manager. His assistant, Dick Advocaat, left his upright suddenly to join Fenerbahce and the KNVB( the Dutch FA) turned to Gullit, who then fell down with Hans van Breukelen, the brand-new technical chairman and the other of his former team-mates. Van Breukelen also requested the team-manger Hans Jorritsma to leave in a decision the players resisted just as Hollands World cup finals preparing safarus began.
I found out more about these problems at the top level, Gullit sighs. Bert van Oostveen, the chairman, has also quitted. So I said if you still need me formerly you have resolved all these problems, then come back to me. But not like this. This was a very good decision by my guidelines because my mettle says yes but my brain said: Not now, Ruud.
If you always shout from up high-pitched that things are not going well and have an opportunity to is one thing, you take it. So I said: Yes, I want to do it. But I questioned one question: Im now assistant coach-and-four what will happen if Blind travels like Hiddink started? 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 throw that in this contract?[ Van Breukelen] said: No. You have to trust me. I asked him: If you get fired what happens? Do I have to trust the next guy?
Two days later Marco van Basten[ another assistant coach and Gullits former team-mate at Milan] announces me. He says: Ruudy, you need to know I am on the verge of leaving to go work with Fifa. The humankind who was negotiating with me was already negotiating with Marco. But he said nothing to me. And he wants me to trust him? I was so pissed off. 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 sums are paid often on a weekly basis in football.
Really a year! Gullit titters. I said: You can keep it. I made a very wise decision. But I was so disappointed.
In his new work, which offers an fascinating counterpoint to Cruyffs systems and ideologies, Gullit repudiates the old-fashioned Dutch love for 4-3-3 and meets a different kind of beautiful in alternative means of playing which provide from his own past success with Milans proficiency 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 declares in disbelief. No! They played last month in Rostov[ in a Champions League qualifier which they failed 4-1] and were wiped off the tone by forte and rush. 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 grew manager at Ajax who did he buy? Ronald Spelbos a fucking robust champion who are able knock you and exactly give the dance from A to B. Same with Jan Wouters. Ask Paul Gascoigne if he knows Jan Wouters.
Gascoignes cheekbone was fractured by Wouters elbow in a 1993 World Cup qualifier and he wore a Phantom of the Opera mask for months afterwards. Of route, Gullit grins. Thats the various kinds of player Johan needed in midfield at Ajax. Those were his first key contracts with Danny Blind, a defender who could also play. I said to the Ajax people: Where is your philosophy of Johan Cruyff now? Why are you not having the kind of players he recognized?
Gullit had just moved 20 where reference is began to play alongside Cruyff at Feyenoord. I was more curious than anything, he recollects. He was 36 when he came to Feyenoord. There were moments when I concluded: OK , now Im going to get the ball off him but I couldnt. I was pondering: 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 its first year he told me: Ruud, the next guild you go to, be prepared for the fact that beings wont like you any more. Too, you need to oblige others around “youre playing” better. I was imagining: Okaaaayyy I still have to give attention to my working careers. How can I facilitate others? But when I went to PSV and then Milan the baffle abruptly fitted together. I recollected 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 recollected far more vividly. Thats nonsense, Gullit demonstrates. Sometimes in Holland we fool ourselves. The Germans were very good. Morally you are able to triumph the hearts of the person or persons. But its still about lifting the accolade. Johan and me always had these discussions because he had grown up with 4-3-3.
For him it was the only practice. But I said: Examination, 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 arrangement with very good actors. 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 course. But for him football is perfect with 4-3-3 and the Barcelona way.
In his notebook Gullit shows some uncertainty that Barcelona would triumph the Premier League if they were subjected to the weekly physical grind of English football. Im not saying they surely would not prevail the Premier League, he clarifies. Im just saying I dont know if they would.