Ruud Gullit: The man that changed Chelsea for the better
1995: Portrait of Ruud Gullit of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Gullit signed on a free transfer for Chelsea from Sampdoria in May 1995 at the age of 32. 

Then Chelsea player-manager Glenn Hoddle, was keen to add some depth and extra experience to a midfield that already included the likes of Nigel Spackman, Dennis Wise and Gavin Peacock.

Upon arrival, Gullit was initially played as a sweeper by Hoddle and not in his midfield role that had seen him become so successful at the likes of AC Milan, PSV and Feyernoord.

It wasn’t long before Hoddle made the right decision to move Gullit to his favoured midfield role, and the Dutchman ended the season having scored six goals, all from midfield.

A brilliant coup

Despite Chelsea’s poor league form where they finished 11th, Gullit, alongside top performers and new signings Mark Hughes and Dan Petrescu, helped the Blues reach the FA Cup semi-finals that season, where they narrowly lost 2-1 to Manchester United.

Gullit admitted that he did struggle to adapt to Chelsea’s play style, before revealing Hoddle’s suggestion about how he should be playing when in midfield:

"I would take a difficult ball, control it, make space and play a good ball in front of the right back, except that he didn't want that pass. Eventually Glenn said to me, 'Ruud, it would be better if you do these things in midfield.'"

The ‘adjustment’ back to midfield from defence was a successful one and at the end of the 95/96 season, Gullit came second to Eric Cantona in the Footballer of the Year Award.

  • Transition to management

In the summer of ‘96 when Hoddle left Chelsea to take up the position of England manager, Gullit then became Chelsea's player-manager.

Making the Dutchman player-manager of the Blues proved to be a master-stroke from the club’s hierarchy, as Gullit used his European connections to bring in some fantastic players such as French defender Frank Leboeuf and Italians Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Champions League winner and Juventus forward Gianluca Vialli.

His first season as player-manager was largely successful, as he guided the Blues to victory in the ‘97 FA Cup Final and 6th place in the Premier League.

Despite getting relieved of his duties the following campaign, Chelsea carried on improving under Gullit’s successor Vialli, finishing 4th in the league and winning the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Gullit will no doubt be seen as a success at Chelsea both as player and manager, being one of the catalysts in helping propel the Blues to the FA Cup semis in ‘96 and delivering the ‘97 FA Cup to the Bridge, Chelsea’s first major trophy in 26 years.

  • ''Chelsea was the only time I had fun"

Gullit has since said in interviews that it was in London where he enjoyed his career the most and felt happiest.

"Every time I played for Chelsea, I thought, 'Nice game, beautiful stadium, great crowd, I'm playing well.' It was the only time I really had fun." 

In moving to Chelsea, many see Gullit as an important figure in the "foreign revolution" as numerous high-profile international stars such as David Ginola and Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp joined Premier League clubs and helped increase its significant recognition that England's top division still has to this day.