The 1990s saw some of the biggest names in world football brought to England for the first time, and Chelsea were among the leading clubs in that regard.
During the first decade of the Premier League, the Blues recruited stars such as Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli, Frank Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly. But perhaps no club across the decade signed a player as world renowned and respected as Ruud Gullit, who joined the Stamford Bridge outfit on a free transfer from Sampdoria in 1995 and stayed for three seasons.
And FFT can reveal that former Chelsea gaffer Glenn Hoddle wanted to turn the creative midfielder into a sweeper – a role Hoddle himself played towards the end of his career, most notably under Arsene Wenger at Monaco. However, injuries meant the plan never worked out.
"I had wanted to play the same system [we had been playing at Swindon Town, where Hoddle managed before heading to Stamford Bridge] at Chelsea, with me in a sweeper role," says Hoddle, speaking exclusively as part of FourFourTwo's Players Lounge series – you can order the latest mag here. "I played the first two seasons, but during the second one I was injured all the time.
"That’s why I wanted Ruud to come. I thought that he could be playing in a sweeper role as well." Hoddle continues. "But then it was a question of whether we would be able to get him. I thought it would take a bit of persuading for him to come, but when we went over to meet him, it was one of the easiest deals. He quite liked the idea of playing as a sweeper, but in the end I never really got the chance to play three at the back, because a couple of defenders who were comfortable in that system got injured.
"We moved Ruud through the pitch and played him in a sort of free role where he could go further up. He enjoyed it anyway – he loved his time at Chelsea."
1987 Ballon d'Or winner Gullit played 54 games for Chelsea, scoring six goals. He was part of the team that lifted the 1997 FA Cup, and retired from football at the end of the following season.
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Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.
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