Galaxy appoint Gullit as coach
CARSON, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Galaxy's first famous European import did little to contribute right away on the field. The MLS team hopes for a more immediate impact from the second.
Ruud Gullit, once one of soccer's best players, was introduced Friday as coach of the Galaxy.
"It is a big challenge. It's all here for the taking," Gullit said at the Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy play. "We're going to work very hard to change things here."
Even with David Beckham, the Galaxy failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year, going 9-14-7 for 34 points. They were eliminated from contention on the season's final day.
"We wanted a strong personality, someone with confidence, someone with leadership," team president Alexi Lalas said. "In Ruud Gullit, I think we have found our man."
Gullit agreed to a three-year contract that AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said made the 45-year-old Dutchman one of the league's highest-paid coaches. Gullit succeeds Frank Yallop, who quit to return to San Jose for a second stint with the Earthquakes.
The Galaxy also introduced former star Cobi Jones as an assistant coach. Jones retired following this season after spending his entire MLS career in Los Angeles.
"I don't know a lot about the MLS," Gullit said."I don't know a lot about the players."
Then, nodding at Jones, Gullit said: "I can use his knowledge, I can use his knowhow. I thought I needed somebody with experience. Who better than him?"
Said Jones: "I see great things here, and that's why I wanted to stay and be a part of this."
Gullit met with Beckham and his teammates before Friday's news conference. Beckham joined the Galaxy this year and was limited to five games because of knee and ankle injuries without scoring a goal. The English superstar left without speaking to reporters.
Teammate Landon Donovan said that while growing up he admired Gullit's game.
"There's an automatic respect, you don't have to worry about that," he said. "You know when he says something to you, he knows what he's talking about."
Leiweke said it was made clear to Gullit that the Galaxy expect to win immediately.
"More important than anything to us is winning. We haven't done that in two years," Leiweke said. "Sometimes when you have a star like David Beckham or Landon Donovan, a coach is intimidated by that. I don't think we'll have that problem with Ruud."
Gullit was a star striker on the Dutch team that won the 1988 European Championship. He joined the Italian club AC Milan and helped it win the European Cup in 1989 and '90. Gullit was the World Soccer Magazine's World Player of the Year in 1987 and 1989. He has spent the past two years as a TV soccer analyst.
Gullit coached English clubs Chelsea and Newcastle, leading Chelsea to an FA Cup triumph. He has coached only one season since 1999, leaving the Dutch club Feyenoord after the 2004-05 season when it finished fourth.
Gullit said he has much work ahead with his players.
"You want to improve the passing game," he said. "It's not about the individual. It's a total different system in America, I have to adapt myself to this."
Gullit knows Beckham and will treat him like any other player.
"We will try to use his experience," the coach said. "He has also the role of helping the players understand the game."
Gullit met with his players and told them what he expected.
"It wasn't a question and answer [session]," he said. "Expectations are very high. It's not about the best players; it's about the best team."
Asked about playing "sexy football," Gullit smiled and said: "That phrase haunted me for years." He coined the term while broadcasting for the BBC during the 1996 European Championships.
"I think it's football you like to see," Gullit said. "Hopefully, we can play it."