Gullit: America afraid of soccer, Becks can't help
Ruud Gullit returned on Monday to the Home Depot Center, scene of his nine-month stint as coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he spoke about his adventure in Lalaland.
According to the former Holland international, soccer in the United States is hamstrung by a conspiracy among the bigger sports. Because of this, he added, the Galaxy's brightest star, David Beckham, will not have the grand effect on American soccer that his bosses hope.
"David is more than just a football player and I think he does extremely well to give football here a lift," Gullit told Reuters. "I think [American soccer organizers] are afraid of football because it's so popular everywhere around the world. I think they will just control it so it doesn't become more popular than their American sports.
"I have my doubts if they really want to make [soccer] popular. Some sports already have had a bit of a dive so they don't want American football to become less popular, or basketball or baseball."
The former AC Milan star and two-time World Footballer of the Year was appearing in Los Angeles at a training event arranged by car manufacter Ford. During his term as Galaxy coach, despite having an offensively talented side that included Beckham and Landon Donovan, Gullit resigned from the Galaxy for personal reasons in August. He finished with 6-8-5 record in Los Angeles.
"Of course you do," he said when asked if he had any regrets about taking the L.A. head coach's position last November, "especially if you know what you know now. I don't know if I would have taken the same decision again, that's for sure."
From the moment of his arrival in Southern California, the 46-year-old Gullit struggled to grasp the ways of Major League Soccer. He clashed constantly with the club's then-president and general manager, Alexi Lalas, and has taken criticism from some corners for a lack of understanding of MLS and seriousness about the position.
"The rules and all the things that they do here are so different from what we do in Europe," Gullit said. "Everything that looks logical, they do it in a different way, and that can be frustrating for a lot of coaches."
But unlike other foreign managers who have come and gone from MLS, the former Chelsea and Newcastle manager was willing to concede that the level in MLS is not bad.
"I think the level was reasonable, especially under the circumstances," Gullit said. "You travel a lot and you play under different levels of temperature, height and humidity. That made it all extremely hard, especially when you had to go the East Coast in the summer. It was [90 degrees], 80 percent humidity and on turf. That's ridiculous and it made it all very hard for the players to perform every week."
Gullit currently works as a pundit on English television. He was also recently hired as a talent scout for AC Milan in northern Europe.