Former Portuguese international defender Abel Xavier can't believe what he's hearing from the mouth of Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit.
Faking injury? Being a bad apple in the locker room? Wanting to be friends off the field with his coach?
“The coach expressed comments that I have never heard in my career,” Xavier said.
Xavier said those accusations are completely false.
“I have my frictions with Ruud Gullit because he lied about me saying I was lying about my injury,” Xavier said. “I've never chosen to be a liar. I am an honest man.”
Instead, Xavier contends that his tattered relationship with the Gullit is one amongst many in the squad, a team that dislikes its coach but can't speak out for fear of being shipped out of town -- with one significant exception.
“He has frictions with most of the players within the team,” Xavier said. “The only player he doesn't have frictions with is David Beckham.”
With Xavier's release from the Galaxy last week, those strictures don't hinder the former Benfica and Everton player any longer.
In an extensive phone interview, Xavier shed light on how Gullit has amassed power at the club, why his relationship with the former Holland international went south, why Xavier says players don't want to play for him and how the scene playing out in Los Angeles may soon resemble the ones played out at Chelsea and Newcastle.
The Galaxy, Xavier claims, let Gullit amass “too much power over the club” and ignored the “many things that happen behind the scenes.”
“I would like to see Mr. [Tim] Leiweke, [AEG President & Chief Executive Officer] be closer to the players to realize what is going on,” Xavier said.
When contacted by phone for a response this assertion and others made in the article, Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas said the team had no comment.
Xavier painted a portrait of a former world star wielding that power without adjusting the brash coaching style that once saw him try to bench Alan Shearer at
“I know Ruud through his years in
That perceived lack of respect grated on Xavier, an experienced player who felt that his teammates deserved better treatment from their coach.
“When we win, he praises himself,” Xavier said. “When we lose, he blames the players.”
Those players, Xavier said, want to play for the club, the coach and themselves, but cannot because they struggle to go into work every day to play under Gullit.
“It's about the relationship when you come in to work and try hard for the coach,” Xavier said. “They don't fight for him and they don't believe in him.”
And that lack of belief extends to Gullit's thoughts on his own players.
Xavier cited Peter Vagenas and Carlos Ruiz as two examples, noting that a few weeks ago, Gullit wanted to cut or trade both of them. Both started in Saturday's 2-2 draw against
Implicit in that statement is Xavier's own story, one that involves roller-coaster defensive play, some significant errors and vocal leadership in the locker room that Xavier said led to a falling out between coach and defender.
“Players make mistakes,” Xavier said. “Everyone makes mistakes. But if you keep taking players out of the team when they make mistakes, you don't have any players left. Coaches make mistakes also. In his perception, Gullit never makes mistakes.”
Those mistakes happen more often in MLS, Xavier said, because of how teams develop their players. In
Development occurs when young players reach the first team level, and Xavier thinks Gullit's demeanor is ill-equipped to cope with it.
“The American mentality is great,” Xavier said. “Players want to learn and they want to work. The players always want to play and back the coach. You don't scream at young players. You'll kill their confidence. You should show them what to do with the correct language. Before you are a football player, you are a man. You need to be respectful.”
Xavier thinks the American mentality requires a different style of man-management, one that builds the team spirit. What Gullit perceived as wanting to be friends away from the field, Xavier meant building team spirit while on the training pitch and cultivating mutual respect.
“MLS is different than
Despite the acrimonious relationship between Gullit and Xavier, the former Galaxy defender enjoyed his time with the Galaxy and wants to see the club reach future success, even as he says that “making the playoffs won't make everything right.”
“I would like to say thanks to the Galaxy for the opportunity and thanks to the fans for their support,” Xavier said. “I put my efforts and my passion out every time that I play. It's not about whether I play or not play. When I signed to play for the Galaxy, it wasn't written that I would start or play every game.”
Xavier ruled out retirement and said he would weigh any offers before deciding where he will continue his career.
“I feel well physically and mentally,” Xavier said. “I'll take my time and think about the next decision and where I want to be. I'm managing different situations right now. I guarantee that I will continue to play. I just want to make the correct decision.”
Kyle McCarthy's Monday MLS Breakdown appears each Monday on Goal.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.