Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit is waiting for the “right offer’ to return to management as he showed a keen interest in the UAE Pro League which he described as being “competitive” after Fabio Cannavaro’s Al Ahli beat Dubai 3-1 on Friday.
This was the first glimpse of football in the region for the flamboyant former player cum manager of Premier League side Chelsea whose last stint as manager was at Los Angeles Galaxy before the advent of David Beckham.
“You never know. It is getting more interesting. It’s a great opportunity to be here,” said Gullit here in Dubai as the brand ambassador of the Netherlands-based The Society Shop which opened its first ever outlet outside Europe in Dubai Festival City in partnership with the business conglomerate Al Aqili Group.
The two-time Fifa World Player of the Year visited Al Wasl Club in the afternoon and had interactive session with officials of members of the club. “Gullit’s visit to Al Wasl Club highlights the enthusiasm of UAE nationals in the sport of football. Personally, it is an occasion for me to relive my youngers days when I played for Al Ahli,” said Yasser Al Aqili, deputy chairman of Al Aqili Group.
CEO of Al Wasl Club Ashraf Ahmad Mohammed said they were delighted with his visit. “Gullit’s visit will further inspire us to improve and refine our skills,” said Mohammed.
Gullit was certainly impressed with atmosphere and infrastructure at the club which has won the UAE league title seven times since its inception in 1974.
“The development here is unbelievable,” said Gullit who is on his second visit to Dubai after two and half years.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to know people business wise. I’m building up a network here. Every time you come back some new things happens. It’s a very strong and fast growing country. I would certainly be interested in managing a club,” said the former Netherlands captain who led the country to victory in the European Championship 1988.
Asked how he viewed the fact that players like Cannavaro and Spaniard Francisco Yeste have been lure to UAE, he drew comparisons to his role as player-manager for Chelsea in England. “It is a good start. (Juergen) Klinssman followed after me. This thing can have a positive influence in Dubai,” he said.
But his main focus at the moment is heading the joint bid of Holland and Belgium to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022 to be decided on December 2. “So I need to be in a lot of places and have an official task. Therefore when they had this original idea of getting matching stripes on the suits, it was an excellent moment for me. So I can show everyone what it means,” said Gullit, 48, who looked sprightly attired in his new role.
He wanted to show that smaller countries could organize it after they successfully staged the European Championship in 2000. “We had the feeling that normally always the big countries had the possibility to organise this. In 2000 it was success and we thought to ourselves, why not do this for the World Cup,” he said.
“Everybody in the world is always curious about the fact about how where we get the talents from and how we do that. This is I think is the perfect opportunity for the world to see what we do,” said Gullit who earned 66 caps and played in the 1990 World Cup.
Asked how the sport has evolved since he hung up his boots, he said it has become quicker and more athletic. “You see difference in style. Players are shorter but more quicker and more powerful. It’s a shift where you need to be an athlete to do this,” he said.
Shrugging off the debate as to who is a better player Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, the former European Player of the Year said individual comparisons were irrelevant. “Most important thing is there are players like that. So the more they are better it is for the game itself,” said Gullit who did not conceal his admiration for Argentina’s Diego Maradona as a true great of the game.
“He was a player who won the World Cup on his own. He is a true leader,” he said when asked for comparisons with Messi.
Gullit blamed Holland’s failure at the World Cup finals on Spain’s lack of flair as well. “Both teams were afraid to win. Spain did not play well at all people forget that. People always remember the kick of Nigel de Jong. And ofcourse we were not happy about it. But on the other hand it was a bad game for both of them,” said the Dutch star who keeps connected with the game as a pundit for ESPN, Sky Sports and Al Jazeera.
He expressed concern that wealthy clubs like Manchester City were driving smaller Premier League clubs into debt. It’s a good thing that a new club in the Premiership wants to give a go at the title. The only problem is the gap between them and rest is becoming too big. We have other cases like Portsmouth because of that. By going to invest money and spend money they don’t have, they get into serious trouble,” he observed.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Gullit said he had turned a new leaf in his career. “That depends on people themselves. Most important thing is you try to do your job well. Reason I’m here means I have done something well. I’m happy with my career. It’s a new book. It’s a start already with cutting my hair. It was already like ending my playing career and doing something new totally in my life,” he said.