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Alexi Lalas Versus Ruud Gullit

One match we didn't expect to see in the 2010 World Cup, Alexi Lalas versus Ruud Gullit. I wonder if the ESPN producers thought this through when they put them together?

Actually, I'm sure they did, just like Kramer did on Seinfeld, when he setup the Merv Griffin set in his apartment. And even though he was warned, wanted the ratings, so he had George bring the squirrel out even though the hawk was on set and would try to eat the squirrel. Next up, ESPN brings out John Harkes and Eric Wynalda.

All month long during the World Cup it looks like were going to see former American fullback and Dutch legend Ruud Gullit battle it out on ESPN during their coverage of the tournament. Here's a quick run down of the scoring between the two former professional footballers:

Ruud Gullit
Alexi Lalas
Playing Ability
Soccer Knowledge
Musical 'Talent'
Soccer Announcing
Soccer Knowledge
Past Hair Style
LA Galaxy Debacle

There’s a back-story of course between the famous red head and the famous dreadlock sporting football legend , and big reason for the tension involves a certain MLS team. Alexi Lalas was the general manager of the LA Galaxy when Beckham’s people came in and removed Frank Yallop and put Ruud Gullit in place as head coach. Once Gullit was named coach, Lalas essentially lost any power he had in picking and choosing players, his time in LA was over.

The two will battle it out in looks, in who has the better game analysis, playing ability, managing ability, smartest comments, and who hooked up with the most girls. Well, maybe not the last part, and I think Gullit would or has already won that battle.

Other potential battle that will take place: name dropping. Gullit doesn’t need to name drop, as he’s earned the respect from the greats in the game and is friends with a slew of them. Who scored better goals? I think we know the answer to that one. However, believe it or not, Lalas did score against AC Milan, but no while Gullit was there of course.

If you’ve read Grant Wahl’s book, The Beckham Experiment, you know that Lalas was frustrated all year long when Gullit was in charge, and felt Gullit didn’t know the MLS player or how to coach in the MLS. He was livid when he found out the Gullit had never even had a practice session for set pieces, and Lalas loves set pieces. In fact, all Lalas pretty much talks about when he's on TV is how important set pieces are in the game of soccer - well, not all he talks about but he sure loves to mention it.

Gullit is a former world player of the year in 1987 and 1989 and dynamic midfielder/forward for Holland and AC Milan.

Lalas is more famous for his wild red hair and his goatee, but he's also the first American to play soccer in the Italian Serie A with Padova. That is no small feat.

However, it seems the two, or more so Lalas, is trying to use the pundit table to get back at Gullit. Take revenge. At the anchor table on ESPN's World Cup coverage, Lalas always tries to one up Gullit and raise his voice or dismiss something Gullit has just said. Lalas talks in a frenzy but doesn’t really say a whole lot in the end.

Lalas has had a few GM positions in the past with MLS teams, but with little success; the LA Galaxy eventually fired Lalas. Lalas even selected Chris Klein as the team MVP, which meant that Landon Donovan wouldn’t get a $25,000 bonus. The team itself thought Donovan should get it, and he eventually did get his money.

Gullit too was let go by the LA Galaxy and this led the way for the hiring of Bruce Arena. With Arena at the helm the LA Galaxy turned things around and made it the MLS Cup final last year before losing in a shootout to Real Salt Lake. They've since become the top club in the MLS.

You can’t deny Lalas’s passion though, he loves the game, but Gullit has earned a little more respect and Lalas could give it to him. Not that he has to bow down to Gullit but just give the man some credit.

What’s funny is the two have both gone from having sort of outlandish looks to conservative ones: Lalas with the mop of wild hair and goatee and Gullit with the once long dreadlocks and mustache.

I can’t wait until the Netherlands has some matches in the tournament. Wonder if Lalas will try to undermine what Gullit has to say about his former team. That right there might lead to a fight. But Lalas also will face another legend in an anchor battle, Jurgen Klinsmann, who joins the ESPN cast for all Germany games.

Let's take a look at the two as players - a couple goals:

Gullit Header

Of course, Holland went on to win Euro 1988.


Lalas Scores Against AC Milan

This was a game winner.


In the end it's clear Gullit is more of the statesman, the player, the legend, but you can't deny Lalas love for the game and his impact on the U.S. game. The first player to play in Italy is nothing to scoff at.

Update: Looks like ESPN has decided not to pair the two together anymore. Instead, they're putting either Steve McManaman or Roberto Martinez with Lalas or Gullit. However, this didn't stop the subtle barbs from flying even though they're not working together.

After defender Winston Reid of New Zealand scored and ripped off his shirt, earning a yellow card, Lalas was adamant that he shouldn't have done that and potentially could earn another yellow in the later stages of the World Cup. Gullit on the other hand, made a point to say on a few occassions that he just most assuredly should enjoy the moment and rip of shirt if he wants to. It was a good goal in injury time and he should enjoy it.

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