The MSR advent calendar: Our favorite signings that never happened: Door 18 – Ruud Gullit
For a long time of my life I have had no real interest in the FC Bayern teams of the early nineties. I was born on 13 June 1993. When I became a Bayern fan during my childhood, my focus was always on the here and now. But if what the Kicker wrote on a double-page spread on my birthday had come true, I might have thought differently: “Gullit will be a Bayern player”. And then: “What FC Bayern it is still keeping a secret has been revealed by Ruud Gullit himself: The Dutch superstar will sign with FC Bayern for the next two years. The landmark transfer is supposed to be completed this week.”
But nothing came of it. Only three days later, Kicker ran the headline: “Waiting for Ruud Gullit – doubts in Munich”. The wife is the problem. The following passage from the trade magazine’s report is remarkable: “‘Gullit’s wife is the problem,’ Hoeneß reported, ‘she can’t imagine living in Munich.’ The recent xenophobic murders in Solingen, and the violent xenophobic riots in Rostock had suddenly become a matter of discussion at Gullit’s home in the Piazza Castello.”
Years later, however, Hoeneß seemingly has no longer any interest in remembering the exact reasons for the failed transfer. In an interview with the official club magazine “Säbener 51” in 2019, he recounted in an obviously talkative mood:
Ruud Gullit was completely crazy. First I flew to Milan with Franz Beckenbauer. When we got to his flat at half past nine in the morning, no one was awake yet – except the butler. He had a butler! He then asked us into the lounge, we had coffee. Finally, we closed the deal and he came to Munich for the medical by Dr Müller-Wohlfahrt. Everything was still on track then. In the evening we had dinner together and he spent the night at my place. Everything was still running smoothly then, too. The next morning he said he had to go to Milan and talk to his wife – then in the evening he called the transfer off at the last minute. I still don’t know exactly why.Uli Hoeneß to “Säbener 51” in March 2019
Admittedly: Being born in 1993, I am not the ideal person to comprehensively evaluate this player in all his aspects. For that, you probably have to have seen him live. But I have watched many recorded matches of Milan under Sacchi lately, being fascinated by the tactical proficiency and vision, and thus was able to form an opinion on the outstanding players in this team. And if no one else wants to pick up this absolutely brilliant story, then I feel almost compelled to do reflect on it again.
Gullit would undoubtedly have been a “landmark transfer”, as the Kicker put it. Together with other greats of football, he shaped one of the most impressive teams in the history of football: AC Milan at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. The “Gil Immortali” (The Immortals) under coach Arrigo Sacchi won the then European Champion Clubs’ Cup twice (1989 and 1990).
Gullit scored 35 goals in 117 games for Milan and particularly stood out as a second striker alongside Marco van Basten. Similar to Thomas Müller today, Gullit acted in a kind of free-roaming offensive role for Milan. The big difference to Müller, however, was his technical finesse: Gullit just had a different set of means to shape the game of his team. Above all, he knew how to create danger with his dynamic and powerful attacking runs.
But how could it be that Gullit was available at all in 1993? I asked various people who were closely involved with Italian football at the time and the almost unanimous answer was: in Italy, clubs were almost addicted to presenting new names every year. Therefore, there was a high turnover of players at many clubs. For example, a certain Lothar Matthäus was also let go in 1992 after four years playing for Inter.
But it is also a fact that Gullit’s qualities were already beginning to decline. He no longer achieved the elevated levels from the 1988 European Championship. But: Gullit was still world class.
And that is precisely why he would have been an absolute asset for FC Bayern. It is well known that FC Bayern did not necessarily go through the best phase of their history at the beginning of the 1990s. There were isolated successes, but a really big triumph and, above all, consistency were missing.
A weak FC Bayern often goes hand in hand with a rather weak phase in German football in general – and this was also the case in the early 90s. The level in the Bundesliga was hardly comparable to that in Serie A.
It is not too out there a thesis that Gullit would have become quite easily one of the best, probably even the best player in the league right away. Perhaps he could have stabilised Bayern and given them the decisive edge for more success. Together with Lothar Matthäus, he would have formed an axis that would have been the envy of many. And I may have been able to relate much better to the FC Bayern of the early 90s sooner in my life.
Hint: Tomorrow we jump back to the present. Would this player’s career at FC Bayern perhaps have taken a different course? In any case, his galactic move does not seem to have paid off so far.