EPL

Ruud Gullit to Chelsea: The move that triggered English football's game-changing summer of 1995

By Sports Desk May 31, 2020

There are some days in English football history that stand out as turning points.

On May 31, 1995 – a full 25 years ago – Chelsea agreed a deal to sign Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria. And the face of the game changed.

The fledgling Premier League had experienced a sprinkling of overseas talent already, with Eric Cantona making a staggering impact at Leeds United and Manchester United, and Jurgen Klinsmann coming off a season-long cameo at Tottenham.

Superstar Gullit's arrival at Stamford Bridge was the cue for a transfer-market melee, a spectacular flurry of deals that still take the breath away.

To this day, a host of players recruited in the wake of Gullit's arrival, many imported from overseas, are revered in the top bracket of talent that graced their clubs and the Premier League.

Dennis Bergkamp came to Arsenal with a lofty reputation. But David Ginola, Juninho and Georgi Kinkladze joined Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Manchester City as near-unknowns in England, destined to join the pantheon of club greats.

Euro 96 was on the horizon, lads and ladettes were supping Hooch and bathing in a summer of Britpop battles, and there was feverish optimism about the state of the nation.

Here is a look at the biggest deals of that heady few months.

RUUD GULLIT ​– SAMPDORIA TO CHELSEA

A world star, who was arguably the finest player on the planet at his peak, Gullit may not have been at the height of his career by the time he arrived in London on a free transfer, but there was no disguising the 32-year-old's star quality.

He rivalled Klinsmann as the most famous arrival since the Premier League launched in 1992, and was arguably in a higher bracket.

British television audiences had watched Gullit every week on Channel Four's popular Football Italia shows, firstly with Milan and then Sampdoria, and Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle was smitten.

Hoddle reportedly made two trips to Italy to meet Gullit before the stunning deal went through, and the Netherlands maverick was recruited to feature as a sweeper in the new high-culture Chelsea side.

"I am very fit and by playing sweeper I can control the speed of the game," said Gullit, quoted in the Independent the following day. "If you have possession of the ball you don't have to run around chasing after it."

The sweeper experiment was soon abandoned, however, Gullit moving into a better-suited midfield role where he proved predictably majestic, going on to succeed Hoddle as Chelsea manager in 1996.

DENNIS BERGKAMP ​– INTER TO ARSENAL (and David Platt – Sampdoria to Arsenal)

Bergkamp was a real eye-catcher, joining for a then British record fee of £7.5million, albeit with question marks over his suitability for the Gunners, particularly after a rocky season at Inter.

Platt had been captain of England, and was a guaranteed solid midfield presence, but new Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch appreciated he was perhaps getting something special when Bergkamp became the first signing of his reign.

That overwhelmingly proved to be the case, and although Rioch only lasted one full season at Highbury, he could always point to his nurturing of Bergkamp as being instrumental in shaping Arsenal's future.

The non-flying Dutchman played 423 games for the Gunners, scoring 120 goals and winning a hatful of medals. Today, a bronze statue of Bergkamp stands outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium home.

DAVID GINOLA ​– PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO NEWCASTLE (and Les Ferdinand – QPR to Newcastle)

Newcastle had surprisingly allowed Andy Cole to join Manchester United for £7m in January 1995, but Kevin Keegan's team went from strength to strength nonetheless.

The £2.5m arrival of Ginola proved a masterstroke, the French winger magnificent on the left wing while Keith Gillespie, a makeweight in the Cole deal, dazzled on the right.

Ferdinand was the ideal targetman and proved to be another exceptional buy, but Ginola was the fans' favourite, his trickery, pace and personality lighting up the league.

Newcastle were almost champions, Ginola at the heart of some of the most cavalier football of the decade.

GEORGI KINKLADZE ​– DINAMO TBILISI TO MANCHESTER CITY

City fans are accustomed to success nowadays, brought to them by a foreign legion featuring the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sheikh Mansour, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.

But there will always be a special place for Kinkladze in the hearts of City fans who saw him play in the Maine Road era, when Franny Lee was chairman and Uwe Rosler the star imported striker.

City were relegated from the Premier League in Kinkladze's first season, and he left in 1998 after a second relegation into the third tier, but the Georgian was a bright spark in dark times, his dribbling skills and free-kick ability never to be forgotten. A particularly memorable solo strike came against Southampton, a lasting gift.

STAN COLLYMORE ​– NOTTINGHAM FOREST TO LIVERPOOL

The British transfer record was broken twice in June 1995, firstly with Arsenal's swoop for Bergkamp and then when Liverpool paid £8.5m for Nottingham Forest striker Collymore.

He and Robbie Fowler formed an often menacing partnership, particularly in Collymore's first season at Anfield, but the big-money recruit lasted just two seasons with Liverpool in the 'Spice Boys' era before moving to Aston Villa for £7m.

PAUL INCE ​– MANCHESTER UNITED TO INTER

Pipped to the 1994-95 Premier League title by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United cleared the decks and allowed star men Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis to leave Old Trafford.

It was a stunning gamble by Alex Ferguson, with Hughes and Kanchelskis joining Premier League rivals Chelsea and Everton respectively, while midfield general Ince floated off to Italy with Inter for £7.5m.

But Ferguson knew his Class of 92 youngsters were pushing for a chance at first-team level, and with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt emerging, the old guard were barely missed, United going on to win a league and cup double.

JUNINHO ​– SAO PAULO TO MIDDLESBROUGH

This £4.75m move went through slightly later in the year, in October 1995, back when clubs could strike autumn deals.

Bryan Robson would bring in Fabrizio Ravanelli in the following close-season, but none of the Middlesbrough manager's signings are remembered quite so fondly as Juninho.

The little Brazilian was a marvel of an attacker, a low centre of gravity helping him to ride the wildest of tackles from defenders who could not handle his dribbling ability.

On Teesside, they adored the Brazilian, who began brightly enough but truly dazzled in his second season, helping Boro to reach both the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

They lost both and suffered the pain of relegation. Juninho left too, but returned for two later spells with the club that loved him best of all, winning the 2004 League Cup.

...MEANWHILE, NORTH OF THE BORDER

PAUL GASCOIGNE ​– LAZIO TO RANGERS

Chelsea had reportedly wanted Gascoigne to join Gullit in west London, but it was Scottish champions Rangers who prised the England international from Lazio, a massive coup for the Ibrox club.

'Gazza' was adored on the blue side of Glasgow and scored a raft of dazzling goals as Rangers won their eighth and ninth successive league titles.

Forgiveness even came quickly after his stunning strike past club-mate Andy Goram for England against Scotland at Euro 96.

Related items

  • Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data

    Another season and another missed opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Prior to the season shutting down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks were the team to beat in the NBA.

    But Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not the same inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort – the Eastern Conference top seeds eliminated by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the semi-finals.

    While superstar Antetokounmpo claimed back-to-back MVP honours, there are more questions than answers in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are still waiting for their first championship since 1971.

    Antetokounmpo is also set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

    As the ageing Bucks try to pick up the pieces and provide adequate support for Antetokounmpo in pursuit of NBA glory, we review Milwaukee's season using STATA data.

     

    Bucks fall short… again

    In 2018-19, the Bucks finished with the best regular-season record at 60-22 as Antetokounmpo earned his first MVP award. But Milwaukee went down to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

    This season, the Bucks owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

    Unconvincing against the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks were no match for Jimmy Butler and the red-hot Heat as their wait for a first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 goes on.

    The Bucks are the second team ever to have the outright best record in the NBA two seasons in a row and not reach the Finals in either season, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

     

    Giannis struggles from the line

    For all his remarkable skill, Antetokounmpo's shooting remains an Achilles heel. The "Greek Freak" and his free-throw shooting was a lot worse this season – it was the third largest season-to-season decline in NBA history among players with at least 600 attempts in both campaigns.

    In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo was 72.9 per cent from the line but he was just 63.3 per cent this season, a differential of 9.6 per cent. San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan tops the list with a difference of 14.3 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal (13.2 per cent from 2002-03 to 2003-04).

    To put things into context, Antetokounmpo missed 231 free throws during the regular season, and the Bucks' 17 losses during the regular season were by a combined 157 points.

    When Giannis is shooting well from the free-throw line, the Bucks are usually winning. Over the past two seasons (regular season and playoffs), Milwaukee have a record of 61-8 (88.4 per cent) when he makes at least 70 per cent of his free throws in a game – including a 9-0 record in the playoffs. So him making more shots from the line could be a key to their future success.

     

    Antetokounmpo's health and fitness

    The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, missed Milwaukee's Game 5 loss to the Heat due to an ankle injury.

    Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle in Game 4 but sat out the must-win clash as the Bucks departed the playoffs, despite Khris Middleton's best efforts.

    Over his career, Antetokounmpo has played at least 35 minutes in less than half of his playoff games (21 of 43). Lakers superstar LeBron James (224 of 249), on the other hand, has done that in 90 per cent of his playoff games.

    Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 Spurs.

    So basically, if the Bucks are going to win a title, they are likely going to need their star player to play more minutes.

    Three-point defending

    As good as the Bucks are, they are obviously not without their flaws.

    Three-point defense was a big issue in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20. Milwaukee allowed 14 three-pointers per game in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, both of which were the most in NBA history (minimum 10 games for the playoffs).

    Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have plenty to figure out heading into 2020-21.

  • 'Incredible' De Bruyne the perfect cure for Pep's patched-up City 'Incredible' De Bruyne the perfect cure for Pep's patched-up City

    Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne's influence upon an injury-ravaged Manchester City squad after he starred in Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves.

    Guardiola headed to Molineux with seven senior players unavailable but his team turned in a sparkling display against opponents who beat them twice last season.

    De Bruyne was City's star man, winning and converting a 20th-minute penalty before having a hand in goals for Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.

    "Since we came back after the games for the national teams, every training session he has incredible commitment," Guardiola, who saw Raul Jimenez briefly reduce the deficit in the 78th-minute, told a post-match news conference.

    "Right now he is an incredibly important player for us. He always was, but in the situation we are in right now, it is so important.

    "He took an incredible penalty, he took it perfectly. Then there is the amount of assists, how he runs. He played really well, like all the team.

    "He likes to play football, he doesn't feel the pressure and likes to compete at a high standard."

    Ilkay Gundogan's positive test for coronavirus compounded Guardiola's selection problems heading into City's opening Premier League game of the season, with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Eric Garcia all injury absentees.

    Aymeric Laporte only returned to training last Friday following his own COVID-19 positive, although John Stones and new signing Nathan Ake were assured for the most part in the centre of defence.

    Guardiola confirmed a team predominantly made up of academy players will launch City's bid for a fourth consecutive EFL Cup against Bournemouth on Thursday, with Leicester City up next in the Premier League on Sunday.

    "Most of them are for after the [October] international break," he said when considering when asked when the injured players might return. "After that they’ll be ready.

    "Laporte is not injured but he had just one training session in two months. Eric Garcia had 16 stitches, that is why he is not here but maybe for the next game he will be fit.

    "The others I think after the international break – Joao, Bernardo, Oleks and Sergio will be longer.

    "This is the situation. Maybe in the next days it will change a little bit."

    The strain of those considerations appeared to be weighing upon Guardiola during a largely terse briefing, but he still found time to praise Foden, who made a goalscoring return to club action after being banished from the England squad earlier this month for breaching coronavirus protocols in Iceland.

    "He played really well," he added.

    "Apart from scoring the goal, in the first half he was not much involved. In the second half he played incredibly well.

    "Since day one he trained really well. In all the time he played with us, if we decide to play five minutes or 90 minutes it doesn’t matter.

    "He has a big impact and makes great contributions to the team. Today was not an exception."

  • De Bruyne up for title fight after City's winning start at Wolves De Bruyne up for title fight after City's winning start at Wolves

    Kevin De Bruyne was already looking towards another title tussle with Liverpool after Manchester City won at Wolves, adding that team glory ranks above his personal exploits despite a standout performance.

    City won the Premier League in 2017-18 and 2018-19, holding off the Reds down the home stretch in the latter season, but then relinquished their crown to Jurgen Klopp's team last term.

    Liverpool registered six points from the opening two matches of their title defence before Pep Guardiola's men even took to the field, with City making a late start due to their involvement in the Champions League in August.

    However, De Bruyne broke the deadlock at Wolves on Monday, had a hand in Phil Foden's second and then, after Raul Jimenez halved the deficit, supplied an assist for Gabriel Jesus in stoppage time.

    The reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, who created six chances in all, did not shy away from the challenge before City.

    "It's obviously hard," De Bruyne told Sky Sports. "It's a little bit of a weird season, but we know we have to start well.

    "Wolves have been a bit of a bogey team for us in the last couple of seasons, so to come here and do this performance is encouraging, because we're missing a few players.

    "I think the team played really well. The only thing we really can do is play game by game. We know Thursday [Bournemouth in the EFL Cup] is another one and we'll try to do our best.

    "We know if the pace is the same as the last three years, it's going to be a hard job. We want to fight against [Liverpool], we need to fight against them.

    "I think we make each other better and that, for me, is what sport is all about."

    De Bruyne had 20 league assists last season, tying Thierry Henry's record, and was awarded his first of the new campaign after tackling Willy Boly before Jesus netted.

    Yet individual statistics are of little concern to the midfielder, who has also scored 14 times since the start of last season - his 35 goal involvements the most of any Premier League player in that time.

    "I don't know if my output is going to be more," he said. "I'm perfectly happy with the way the second goal goes. That's why we have so many attacking players - so I can slot them in and they can do the rest.

    "I would prefer to have five goals and five assists and go away with the title. You can contribute in a lot of ways.

    "I'm a midfielder, I know these days it's a lot about statistics, but I try to set myself [the goal] to play the best that I can for the team.

    "Obviously, if I have good numbers, it's going to help myself, it's going to help the team. But even if I play badly, I need to try to contribute in one way or another. That's what I'm trying to do."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.