With his dreadlocks and his athletic running, Ruud was a real crowd pleaser who made a massive impact on football.
It was as Netherlands captain that Ruud achieved his greatest success. He was a star of the European Championships in 1988, scoring the opening goal against the USSR in the final with a powerful header in a 2-0 win, and thus becoming the first man to captain the Dutch team to victory in a major international championship.
He was capable of playing in several positions, using his speed and strength to great effect. Tall and powerful, he also possessed balance and poise which combined with his vision made him one of the most graceful players of his era. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1987 and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1987 and 1989.
With Ruud in the side, the Netherlands travelled to the World Cup in Italy in 1990 as one of the favourites, but the team failed to perform as expected, and knee injuries reduced Gullit's effectiveness. The Dutch lost 2-1 in the second round to Germany who went on to win.
From a poor background, he developed his football skills in the confines of the Rozendwarsstraat where street football was instrumental in his formative years. His first team were the Meerboys, whom he joined as a junior in 1970. However, at the age of ten, he moved from the Jordaan to Amsterdam Old West where he played street football alongside another Dutch football star Frank Rijkaard.
He played for Haarlem and Feyenoord, before making his name at PSV Eindhoven where he began to establish himself as a world class footballer. He joined Italian club AC Milan in 1985 for a then record fee of £6 million. He helped Milan win the league title in his first season - the club’s first in nine years - which laid the foundations for two successive European Cup wins.
Ruud left AC Milan for Chelsea in 1995 and became player-manager a year later, guiding the London club to an FA Cup triumph in 1997, the club’s first major trophy for 26 years. Chelsea also finished sixth in the Premier League. He also had brief spells as manager at English club Newcastle, Rotterdam club Feyenoord and Los Angeles Galaxy. He is now a respected TV football analyst.
He helped to launch the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in the Netherlands in Amsterdam in 2009 and became a Laureus World Sports Academy Member in 2017.