Gullit set to join Beckham in new world

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The Independent Online

Ruud Gullit is top of the shortlist to be David Beckham's new manager at Los Angeles Galaxy as the ambitious American club attempt to appoint a high-profile coach to complement the status of their most famous player. The former European footballer of the year is expected in California later this week.

Gullit, 45, has not been in management since his one season in charge at Feyenoord in 2004-05 and his last job in England with Newcastle ended in controversy and the sack in 1999. However, having signed Beckham, LA Galaxy are determined to employ a top coach who is regarded as big enough to manage the most famous player in the world – and bring to LA what Gullit once described as his "sexy football" philosophy.

The LA Galaxy franchise is being advised in the recruitment process by Beckham's management company, 19 Entertainment, although there is no suggestion that the player himself will have any say in the selection. Beckham's personal manager, Terry Byrne, and entertainment mogul Simon Fuller, the founder of 19 Entertainment, have formed a strong bond with AEG, the owners of LA Galaxy, who have sought their advice on finding a famous name to succeed former coach Frank Yallop.

Gullit is the preferred choice and knows Byrne who worked for Chelsea, where the Dutchman played and managed from 1995 to 1998. AEG is hoping to set up a deal for Gullit similar to the one in place for Beckham, under which a basic salary is augmented by a share of sponsorship deals dependent on the success of LA Galaxy in the new season, which starts in April.

LA Galaxy and AEG are confident of landing Gullit having first approached Jürgen Klinsmann, who lives in California and has become one of the hottest properties in world football on the basis of his World Cup campaign with Germany last year. Klinsmann was not interested in the job. The Manchester United assistant, Carlos Queiroz, and former United States national team manager Bruce Arena, have also been considered as alternatives if the deal for Gullit falls through.

The club's efforts to persuade Gullit to join have intensified after they officially announced they had parted company with Yallop on Sunday. He is returning to his former club the San Jose Earthquakes, who are "returning" to the MLS next season after what will be three years out of the league. Yallop's dismissal was regarded as inevitable after a disappointing season for LA Galaxy despite all the anticipation generated by Beckham's arrival.

Yallop, a former Ipswich Town player who has carved out a good reputation as a coach in America, was never likely to hold on to his job once his side failed to qualify for one of the eight end-of-season play-off places in America's Major League Soccer. With Beckham's injuries restricting him to five appearances for LA Galaxy, their MLS season has ended on a flat note. The club who were due to play a friendly in Vancouver last night.

Whether Gullit can turn around their fortunes is another matter. The MLS imposes a $2m (£1m) salary cap on its clubs but allows them to sign up to two "designated" players whose salary is outside the franchise budget, which allowed LA Galaxy to sign Beckham. The MLS pays the first £200,000 of their salary and the club makes up the rest. There is nothing in MLS rules that states a limit on the salaries paid to coaches.

LA Galaxy have enjoyed a remarkable rise in profile since Beckham arrived in July and Gullit's appointment would be in keeping with their pursuit of European football's biggest names. Whether his management record stands up to scrutiny is another matter, although his playing career was even more successful than Beckham's. As well as being voted European Footballer of the Year in 1987 he won two European Cups at Milan and the 1988 European Champ_ionship with the Netherlands.

Yet his management career has never quite matched up. His most successful spell was at Chelsea, where he won the FA Cup as player-manager in 1997 and was second in the Premier League in February 1998 when he was abruptly sacked by the Ken Bates regime.

After he had steered Chelsea to the quarter-finals of the European Cup-Winners' Cup that season Gullit's star burnt bright. In August 1998 he was appointed manager of Newcastle United in place of Kenny Dalglish. The club finished 13th in 1999, and reached the FA Cup final but Gullit fell out with both the club captain, Alan Shearer, and Rob Lee.

Gullit's reign ended five games into the new season after he dropped Shearer and should he choose to join LA Galaxy, he would have to show the kind of tolerance to one big name player in particular that he could not manage at Newcastle.

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