Ruud Gullit, Steve McManaman, John Harkes, Alexi Lalas, Efan Ekoku and Roberto Martinez to Provide Match and Studio Analysis
ESPN announced today that five former FIFA World Cup players – Ruud Gullit, Steve McManaman, John Harkes, Alexi Lalas and Efan Ekoku – and the Premier League’s Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez will serve as match and studio analysts for the company’s unprecedented coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa (June 11–July 11, 2010). The six commentators, five of whom were members of a combined seven FIFA World Cup tournament teams and one, a rising star in the Premiership’s managerial ranks, will be part of ESPN’s English-language commentary team in the United States on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC and ESPN360.com.
Gullit, the former Dutch national team star, was one of the top footballers of his generation with is best professional years in the Italian Serie A (1987-1994) playing for AC Milan and Sampdoria. Englishman McManaman played for the Premier League’s Liverpool FC and Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga, while Nigerian standout Ekoku played for several English Premier League clubs, including Norwich City. Spanish-born Martinez played for Spanish and English clubs before transitioning to the managerial ranks. He will return to Wigan after his 2010 FIFA World Cup role for ESPN in the U.S.
McManaman and Ekoku, who serve as television commentators in England, will make their U.S. debut on ESPN2 today at 12:00 p.m. ET during the network’s comprehensive coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Draw. Harkes and Lalas, two of the most recognizable faces in U.S. Soccer history, currently serve as soccer analysts for the network.
“Ruud, Steve, Efan, John and Alexi will bring fans the first-hand experience they all have from being part of the most popular – and, arguably the most competitive – sporting event in the world, while Roberto will offer a tactician’s insight,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer, event production. “Their in-depth knowledge of the game and post-career roles as television commentators and manager will help elevate our coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup across ESPN’s media platforms.”
Assignments are to be determined, and other ESPN commentators for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be announced at a later date. Biographical highlights:
Gullit, who excelled at numerous positions on the pitch, was signed by AC Milan in 1987 from PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie for a then record £18 million. Gullit led his three club teams – HFC Harlem (1981), Feyenoord Rotterdam (1984), and PSV Eindhoven (1986 and ’87) – to Dutch league titles before his exceptional run at AC Milan that saw the famed club capture the Scudetto (Italian Football Championship) three times (1988, 1992 and ’93). He played for Netherlands in the 1990 FIFA World Cup and was named World Soccer Magazine “World Footballer of the Year” in 1987 and 1989. In 1994, Gullit moved to Chelsea in the Premier League.
Gullit coined the term “sexy football” as a commentator in England in 1996 to describe teams who play attractive soccer with deft touches and defense-penetrating, pass-and-move style of play. In 1987, when he was awarded the European Footballer of the Year, Gullit dedicated the honor to Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The move endeared him to Mandela and South Africans who applauded his public stance against injustice. In joining ESPN’s FIFA World Cup team, Gullit will travel to South Africa to provide U.S. television analysis for this historic sports event in the country’s history.
Gullit served as a soccer commentator for ITV for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, and he works as an analyst for the UEFA Champions League matches on Sky Sports. Gullit has also served as manager for three European clubs – Chelsea, Newcastle United, Feyenoord Rotterdam – and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
One of England’s most decorated footballers, McManaman was the first British player to win the UEFA Champions League title twice, and he was the first English footballer to win the Champions League with a non-English club. He signed as a professional with Liverpool FC in 1990 and after making 364 appearances for the club transferred to Real Madrid in July 1999. He played for England in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and in the UEFA European Football Championships in 1996 and 2000.
Following his retirement from professional soccer in 2005, McManaman embarked on a new career in television as a commentator and pundit, providing analysis for ITV during the 2005 Champions League Final, for ESPN Star Sports in Singapore in 2006, and for Setanta Sports.
Ekoku tallied an impressive 16 goals in 38 appearances for Norwich City during the 1993-94 Premier League season to earn a spot on the Nigerian national team for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. That same season, he scored Norwich’s first ever goal in European competition against Vitesse in the UEFA Cup (Sept. 15, 1993). Ten days later at Goodison Park, he became the first player to score more than three goals in a Premier League match with four goals as Norwich beat Everton 5-1. Ekoku also played for other clubs, including Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday
After his retirement from professional soccer, Ekoku earned his FA (Football Association) and UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) coaching licenses. He currently works as commentator for the BBC for Barclays Premier League matches.
One of the most accomplished American-born players ever, Harkes captained the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team and was a fixture in the midfield for the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup tournaments, as well as the 1988 Olympics. During his 13-year international career, Harkes captained Major League Soccer’s D.C. United to back-to-back MLS Cup titles (1996 and 1997), the 1998 CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and Inter-American Cup championships. He was one of the first Americans to succeed at the highest levels in England, playing for five seasons (1991-96) for Sheffield Wednesday and helping to pave the way for other U.S. soccer players in Europe. He retired from professional soccer in 2003.
Harkes joined ESPN in March 2007 as the lead soccer analyst for Major League Soccer telecasts and U.S. Men’s National Team matches, including qualifying matches and the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Lalas is one of the fiercest defenders in American soccer history. A standout for the U.S. National Soccer Team at the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cup tournaments, his exceptional play earned him an all-tournament mention during the ‘94 event when the U.S. side advanced to the knockout round. He parlayed that success into a professional contract with Italian club Padova, becoming one of the first Americans to play in the Serie A.
Following a 10-year professional career in Europe and Major League Soccer in the United States, Lalas moved into club management. He was president and general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy when David Beckham joined the club from Real Madrid. Since January, Lalas has been a studio analyst for ESPN.
Martinez is regarded as one of the rising stars in the Premiership’s club coaching ranks, having been highly sought after following two full seasons as manager of Swansea City FC. In his first full season with the club (2007-2008), he led Swansea to one of its best seasons and earned a promotion from League One. In 2008–09, Martínez presided over Swansea’s return to England’s second tier division for the first time in 24 years. In June 2009, he became Wigan’s new manager.
Martínez played for his home town club, CF Balaguer, in the Spanish Third Division before moving to Real Zaragoza in La Liga where he made his senior debut. He moved to Wigan Athletic on a free transfer in July 1995 and made over 200 appearances for the club through 2001.
ESPN Inc.’s 2010 FIFA World Cup Coverage in the United States
South Africa 2010 will be ESPN’s seventh FIFA World Cup and coverage of the event promises to be the most comprehensive in company history. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will air all 64 matches live and in high definition. ESPN360.com, ESPN’s signature broadband network available in 41 million homes, will feature live English-language simulcast of matches on ESPN and ESPN2. ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language all sports network, will air up to 40 matches in Portuguese live in the U.S.
Additionally, ESPN will present 2010 FIFA World Cup television studio programming from site in South Africa, offering U.S. sports fans the most comprehensive news and information coverage throughout the month-long soccer showcase. Studio coverage of the quadrennial global event will include SportsCenter segments, a nightly World Cup Live program, and pre-, halftime and post-match shows, with additional studio programming and World Cup-branded segments, totaling more than 65 hours of coverage, originating from two sets in and around Johannesburg.
ESPN Coverage of Past FIFA World Cup Events:
Germany 2006 – All 64 matches live and in high definitionorea/Japan 2002 – 58 ESPN and ESPN2 matches live (6 tape-delayed broadcasts on ABC)
France 1998 – All 64 matches live on ESPN (27), ESPN2 (23) and ABC Sports (14)
USA 1994 – All 52 matches – ESPN (41) and ABC (11)
Mexico 1986 – 15 matches on ESPN (U.S. cable television rights)
Spain 1982 – 7 matches on ESPN
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