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Gullit, Klinsmann are Galaxy’s top choices

Times Staff Writer

The Galaxy has narrowed its search for a coach down to two high-profile international candidates -- the Netherlands’ Ruud Gullit and Germany’s Juergen Klinsmann -- and a decision could be made as early as today.

Indications are that Gullit, 45, might have the edge because Klinsmann has previously stated his desire to take charge of another national team prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Klinsmann, 43, who lives in Newport Beach, coached Germany to third place in the 2006 World Cup after having won the Cup as a player with West Germany in Italy in 1990 -- oddly enough knocking out the Netherlands and Gullit (pronounced hoo-lit) in a memorable second-round clash in Milan.

Last fall, Klinsmann was first in line to be named U.S. national team coach but could not reach agreement with U.S. Soccer over terms of the contract. Bob Bradley ultimately was given the post.

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But Klinsmann has followed Major League Soccer closely, has served as technical director to the Galaxy and has close ties to Tim Leiweke, the chief executive officer of AEG, which owns the team.

Klinsmann could not be reached for comment on whether he was interested in taking charge of the Galaxy, which has failed to reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

If Klinsmann is not interested, that apparently would leave Gullit as the front-runner to succeed Frank Yallop, who resigned to become coach of the San Jose Earthquakes.

Gullit is a new name to surface for the Galaxy coaching job, along with rumors of such equally prominent figures as former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, former Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello and current Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz.

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Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy’s president and general manager, said Monday that he wanted a “sexy” coach, someone who would attract attention in the same way David Beckham has done and at the same time get the team playing the attractive attacking style that soccer fans demand.

“We are going to use this as an opportunity to once again push the envelope and do something that’s not been seen in MLS,” he said.

Beckham’s agent is “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller, who was instrumental in bringing Beckham to the Galaxy. Fuller’s associate, Terry Byrne, a friend of Beckham, has close connections to leading players and coaches in Europe, including Gullit, sources said.

If Gullit is hired, he would fit the coaching profile the Galaxy is seeking.

At the height of his playing career, the dreadlocked Dutchman was regarded as one of the world’s finest attacking players. Born in Amsterdam, of Surinamese and Dutch parents, he won 17 league championships and cups in the Netherlands and Italy, plus the prestigious European Player of the Year award in 1987, which he dedicated to the then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela, and World Soccer magazine’s World Player of the Year award in 1987 and 1989.

His name is linked with two other Dutch stars of the era -- Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten. The trio played together at AC Milan and helped the Italian team win the European Cup in 1989 and 1990.

The three were also the impetus behind the Netherlands’ victory at the 1988 European Championship in which the Dutch defeated host Germany -- with Klinsmann in the lineup -- in the semifinals in Hamburg.

Gullit has had more modest success as a coach, having had charge of Chelsea, where he won the F.A. Cup, and Newcastle United in England and Feyenoord in the Netherlands.

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Sources said that if Gullit agrees to coach the Galaxy, Cobi Jones, who will retire as a player once the Galaxy completes its trip to Australia and New Zealand later this month, could become Gullit’s assistant coach.

For the last several years, Gullit has been a television pundit and analyst in Britain and Holland. He was the one who coined the term “sexy football” while on the air for the BBC during the 1996 European Championship in England.

Odd, now -- or perhaps a broad hint -- that Lalas should have used the same term this week.

The New England Revolution and Chicago Fire play each other tonight in the MLS Eastern Conference final at Foxborough, Mass. (4:30 p.m., ESPN2), and the Kansas City Wizards will play the defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference final on Saturday (5:30 p.m., FSC, FSE, HDNet).

The MLS Cup final is Nov. 18 in Washington.

grahame.jones@latimes.com


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