Football: Chelsea claim Gullit wanted pounds 3.3m a year

RUUD GULLIT yesterday denied that money was at the root of his departure from Chelsea and insisted "They are using that as a stick to hit me with. I want to know the real reason."

However, Gullit's version of his sacking was promptly questioned by Colin Hutchinson the club's managing director, who described Gullit as being "crafty" by saying he wanted pounds 2m a year to stay, and that what he actually wanted was pounds 3.3m a year. Hutchinson added that had Gullit been prepared to negotiate a new contract earlier he would still be their manager.

Another dramatic day for the club began with a packed press conference in west London in which Gullit gave his version of recent events. He claimed Chelsea had refused to negotiate over his proposed new contract but had instead conducted transfer dealings behind his back with the apparent connivance of senior players including his replacement, Gianluca Vialli.

Gullit admitted that he had asked for a salary of pounds 2m a year, just as he had when approached to join the club as a player, but had expected to agree a lesser figure after negotiation as had happened in 1995.

However, a few hours later Hutchinson took issue with some of Gullit's claims. "He has said in the press conference today, and he said to me yesterday, `You didn't make an offer.' I disagree with that and I repeated the offer to him yesterday in our meeting, just before it was aborted.

"I said to him, `Well Ruud, if you misunderstood, the figure was pounds 1m per year gross. Would you have accepted that?' And he flatly said no. Ruud, who is a master of the media, very craftily said today that he asked for pounds 2m. He did ask for pounds 2m and I immediately responded and said, `Gross?' And he said, `No, netto. I always talk netto.'

"pounds 2m netto is a far bigger commitment to the club than pounds 2m gross. For Ruud to receive pounds 2m a year in his hand means that the club has got to pay tax on it. As far as we're concerned he was asking for pounds 3,220,000 per year. But it gets worse than that because the club has to pay earnings related contributions on that. With his basic salary, and the rest, we were looking at a commitment of pounds 3,365,000 a year to keep Ruud and quite honestly we couldn't afford it.

"I explained to him that the gap was too wide for further meaningful negotiations and said that because of the time-scale we would have to start looking at alternatives."

Gullit admitted that when Hutchinson said last week that the club would look for a new manager he thought they were "bluffing".

After Vialli's appointment was announced on Thursday Gullit sought a meeting with the club chairman, Ken Bates, which was granted at 6.30pm, three hours later. After 20 minutes discussion during which Bates, said Gullit, passed responsibility to Hutchinson who had himself passed the buck to "the board" Bates "handed me a letter saying I am sacked".

Gullit also said his relationship with Bates was restricted to match days, and that he had discovered his fate from Teletext.

Instead he was told, on Thursday, that the board had decided to find another manager. Within hours he discovered that was Vialli who, he claimed, had met with Rangers' Brian Laudrup, a Chelsea transfer target, at a secret meeting on Wednesday also attended by Colin Hutchinson, Chelsea's chief executive, and Gianfranco Zola. Laudrup, he said, had been told Gullit was too busy to attend.

Gullit added that he "did not have a clue" what he was going to do next. He said he did not want to go anywhere solely as a player but would like to continue playing. This would ostensibly rule out both Italy's Serie A, where player-managers are banned, and the Dutch national job.

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