Ruud Gullit, exiled from football since
his ignominious departure from Newcastle almost two and a half years
ago, has revealed the depth of his disenchantment with the game that
turned him into a world star.
In an extraordinary interview,
Gullit, who now hosts his own chat show on Dutch television, says he has no intention ever of returning to football, although he makes an exception for the job of salvaging his country's tattered international reputation.
Gullit, whose time in England with Chelsea and Newcastle was
soured by allegations over his private life, also insists he is happy in his
marriage to Estelle - the niece of Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff -
although he admits that, with six children by three different partners, he
considers himself a failure as a father.
With the resignation last week of Holland coach Louis van Gaal, after his side failed to reach next summer's World Cup finals, Gullit finds himself immediately linked with the one job in football he refuses to rule out.
Ironically, should Gullit be appointed Holland coach - and the Dutch FA sounded him out last week - then his first task would be to prepare the team for a World Cup warm-up match in Amsterdam in February against Sven Goran Eriksson's England.
Gullit said: 'It is a job I will not say no to right now. I have said no to a lot of foreign clubs because I don't want to leave my family and they don't want to live abroad. But the Dutch Football Federation want to take their time with appointing a successor.'
Time is a commodity Gullit has enjoyed since he quit Newcastle in August 1999, the club replacing one of the glamour boys of world football with a silver-haired pensioner in the then 66-year-old Bobby Robson. But Gullit has used his break from full-time employment to reassess his life and has emerged from the dark days, reborn with a flourishing career as a television personality.
It is a lifestyle Gullit now enthuses over with the sort of relish he once reserved for football during a career that saw his talents grace Dutch football with Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Serie A with Milan and Sampdoria and the Premiership with Chelsea. He said: 'I travel all over the world to meet celebrities. I talk to them, we film them and I make a great programme of it.
'It has been a complete surprise that I have gone into the world of TV, rather than carry on in football management. But it's the first time I don't have people on my back commenting about the decisions I take.
'Being a football manager is no fun at all. You have to put up with all the hassle. It is not surprising that so many turn grey or have heart attacks. I enjoyed working with the players, creating the team - that was fun. But all the rest I hated.
'After I got the sack at Newcastle, I only did things I enjoyed. I went out with my friends and saw my mum every day I was back in Amsterdam. People say I am more relaxed. I know why - it's the first time that I feel free.
'I have had offers to return in football. Great clubs, from almost every country in Europe - even national teams. But right now I enjoy meeting people like Nelson Mandela, Craig David and Victoria Beckham for my programme.'
Gullit still plays football, but only on Sundays with his friends in Amsterdam, and admits that, as far as training goes, he has 'become a lazy sod'.
'I could still play high up in the league but I can't be bothered with training two or three times a week and listening to boring pre-match pep-talks,'
'I just want to have a laugh. I bring my kids along. I am in close touch with all six. Of course, the kids are the victims of failed marriages and I still feel that I have failed as a father. I cannot make up for that.
'Leaving my children was the most horrific thing in my life. It hurt me so much. I have been very successful as a footballer and, with Chelsea, as a manager. But in my private life I have been everything but successful.'
Gullit is adamant, however, that speculation over his marriage is unfair. 'I know I have been portrayed as a lousy father or a lousy husband,' he said.
'I don't care. Estelle knows what I am really like and that is all that matters to me. Now I am finally at ease. I am happy and I feel as if I have a happy marriage. I am proud of Estelle. She is funny and intelligent.'
Gullit revealed that, as well as discovering a new career, he has also experienced a spiritual rebirth. 'In the last year I was christened by the Franciscans,' he said.
'It is something from my time in Italy. I once walked into a church and spoke for a while with a monk about the problems in my life. I was going through a very hard time.
'When I moved to England I kept going to church. I still do and, whenever I walk in, I light a candle for somebody who needs support or strength.'
Cynics might add that, should he actually land the job of leading Holland out of their footballing dark ages, Ruud Gullit will need all the support and strength he can muster.
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