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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Press Pass speaks to La Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit

Press Pass

Ruud Gullit took the unexpected step of joining the coaching ranks of the MLS in November 2007, by replacing Frank Yallop at Los Angeles Galaxy.

The former Chelsea, Newcastle and Feyenoord manager - best known for his commitment towards the 'Total Football' embodied by the Holland side of the 1970s - has taken his brand of 'sexy football' over to America for the forthcoming season, teaming up with David Beckham in the process.

The Dutch legend spoke to ESPNsoccernet Press Pass about his big move and also gave us his thoughts on the current Holland set-up and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Catch the full interview with Georgie Bingham on Press Pass.

Q. First of all Ruud, why did you take the job with the LA Galaxy?
A.
I have a feeling that something is happening in America. I think with a capacity of 300 million people there must be something there. I have a feeling also that the MLS itself also wants to improve. The fact that David Beckham came to the MLS says that, and when I saw what was happening I said to myself: 'Yeah, I want to be part of that.'

Q. What do you hope to bring to the club? Obviously it is a while before the new season begins, but what do you hope to achieve?
A.
I think you have to be yourself, which is the most important thing and then you have to bring your experience. I have been in a couple of finals as a player and I was also in a couple of finals as a coach so I know what it is to come there.

Q. The LA Galaxy are a team that, despite Beckham's arrival or maybe because of Beckham's arrival, did struggle badly last season.
A.
I think that there were a couple of reasons. I think that they tried to find Beckham a game every three days somewhere, and also that he was injured at that moment. He wanted to pay them back so badly but he couldn't so that was frustrating.

A lot of players are not used to playing alongside a guy that has that kind of exposure. We played in Sydney in front of 80,000 people, so some people are not used to it with the pressure and the attention that the team has got.

Q. How do you build a team on the basis that they struggled last season and Beckham was not included in the side generally because of injury - do you build the team around Beckham?
A.
No, it is not around Beckham because we have also Landon Donovan and Landon is also a good player. We try to create a team that plays its best as a team and not as individuals. David is part of that and Landon is also part of that and we hope to do something so they can play their best games and so others will learn from them.

Q. Having moved here recently and having watched the MLS since I have been here it is a very different style of football, it is much faster. They seem to place a bigger emphasis on one touch football than I think maybe in Europe, how do you plan to cope with the style of football? Do you intend to coach to the MLS or do you try and bring the European out of them?
A.
Of course I want to bring my own style that I am used to. But, there are some elements that are, of course, against you - we play in the summer and in some places it is almost 30 degrees. You can't always play at a high speed and a high tempo, because of the heat.

Q. What is it like being the Galaxy's latest big signing?
A.
Of course, your Latinos know about football, people who come from Europe - they know about it too, but Americans have their own sports still. Therefore it will take some time to make football as popular as the American sports and I think it will be very hard to do that.

Q. One of your former team-mates has the top job in Holland, tell me what you think about Marco Van Basten's tenure with the national team.
A.
He did quite well, the Dutch are very particular about their football. They want to play for the beauty of it and that is not always the case. If we do not play in a beautiful way we get criticised. It is hard to play just for the points, on the other hand there is a question mark about whether we have as much talent as we think we have.

I think the good thing is that he does not care too much about the press and what they say. He has his results and of course he wants to play beautiful football but it is not possible all the time.

Q. Can you pay tribute to Marco Van Basten as a player?
A.
Oh yeah, I think he is one of the best players I have ever played with. The funny thing is that when you play with him you don't realise it, you just notice that he does the things he has to do.

But after your career you realise how good he really was. I think he was excellent. He was quite complete as a striker. I think his own way of playing haunted him for a long time because he was so complete. He was technically very good, very quick, very good in the air, he could create his own goals and that is something that we look for all the time.

Q. It has been 20 years since Holland won the European Championships, but the tournament has a totally different dimension now doesn't it?
A.
Well, yeah. I think you play more games than in those days. It is two different countries you play in now, so therefore it is totally different but it is still exciting. Of course I hope Holland will win in 2008.

Q. And it won't be long before South Africa host the World Cup in 2010, is that a good thing for you?
A.
It is important that Africa got it because it has always been in Europe in the Americas or Asia. Now it is in Africa, and particularly in South Africa, it makes me very proud. The bad thing for me was that I was supposed to help them in their promotion and then the Galaxy job came along and I couldn't do it.

I hope that everything will be finished on time and I hope that it will be a marvellous tournament. I would like to go there and see it for myself, of course if I am here then that concept will be very difficult, but I am particularly proud that South Africa is doing this, yes.

Q. I am sure they would love to have you, do you think an African team can win a tournament like the World Cup?
A.
You know, if you play on home soil sometimes funny things can happen and you have that push of the crowd. If South Africa are going to win it? I don't know; but I hope some African teams do well because they are talented and I always root for them to win something and go further, so I hope that one African country will do well.

Q. You are just one of a number of high profile Dutchmen coaching around the world, Australia are the latest to appoint a Dutchmen, Pim Verbeek, Australia said they were looking for an ambassador for football and he is not that well known. Was he a good appointment?
A.
I hope so, I don't know him that well. I know he was an assistant with Dick Advocaat and he has travelled around. He knows the Dutch game so hopefully he is going to do it. If he has the experience and know how it will show in time and I hope he will do well.

Q. Looking back on your career what do you most want to be remembered for because there are a number of things - 'sexy football' is a phrase that everyone mentions with you - how would you like to be summed up in a sentence?
A.
The only thing I would like is that if they think about me, I would like them to smile.


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