Since Guus Hiddink joined Chelsea in early February he has rather intoxicated the entire nation with his Dutch charm and gentlemanly conduct. Indeed, such is his enigma that he has actually started to erode at the universal hate that has been directed at Chelsea since they were bought out by Roman “money-bags” Abramovich. So in some ways it’s not just Chelsea fans that are sad to see him go, with many English football fans lamenting the loss of a genuinely nice guy (even if he did beat us in the Cup Final).
He’s off to fulfill his contractual obligations with Russia because he always said that he would, and he is a man of his word. He has been appointed as a ‘technical advisor’ at Chelsea, which is probably just a way of keeping him close so they can bring him back again in the future, should they need to. But my question is, do they really need to actually let him go at all? Why not just keep hold of him…
Of course, we know that he is off to finish the job with the Russian national side and there’s no way he’s going to break his word. However, his contractual obligation to the Russian national side only runs until 2010, after the World Cup in South Africa, assuming of course, that they qualify, though that is looking quite likely as they’re in a healthy position currently. Even so though, Hiddink has only stayed for one World Cup campaign with each of the previous countries he has managed, despite his achieving highly with each of them.
Which means that next Summer, it is highly likely that Hiddink will be looking for a fresh challenge to continue his managerial career, and he may well feel that he has unfinished business with Chelsea in the Premier League. After all, since taking over at Chelsea he only lost one game and will probably feel, as most of the nation does, that he could have won the League, had he been there from the start, and he was clearly disappointed to not progress past Barca in the Champions League, especially in such controversial fashion.
And he clearly enjoyed his time with Chelsea. He’s spoken about the bond that he struck up with the playing staff at the club and he was flattered by the manner in which their fans took him to their hearts. And I think he would love to return to the Premier League and prove himself a little more at club level, as he has been on the international scene for a while now, and may have developed a taste for the day to day management that being at a top club involves.
Thus I have to say that when he finishes with the Russian national team, it is quite likely that Guus would like to return to Chelsea and finish what he has started. Chelsea of course, would love to have him back too, and apart from Manchester United and Liverpool fans, other English fans might welcome him back to ensure that Chelsea liven up an increasingly predictable title race.
However, since it was confirmed that Hiddink wouldn’t be staying on after his temporary stint ended, Chelsea have been courting Carlo Ancelotti who has just recently stepped down from his post with AC Milan, apparently with a view to taking over the reigns at the London club. The man himself has suggested that all is not signed and sealed with that deal yet, but I think it’s pretty much dyed in the wool that he will be Chelsea’s manager next season.
Which complicates matters a bit for Guus, and seems to me like Chelsea are shooting themselves in the foot a little. Because although Carlo Ancelotti is undoubtedly a fine manager in his own right, he speaks no English, has no Premier League experience and will almost certainly take a little time to settle in. After all, Phil Scolari is a good manager in his own right too, and look how he got on at Chelsea.
Undoubtedly I think most Chelsea fans, and probably the club’s officials too, would prefer to have Hiddink take charge on a permanent basis than to have to start again under Ancelotti. And indeed, we’ve seen many times in recent seasons that too much of an open door policy with regards a club’s manager can be detrimental to success. Of course, Hiddink can’t take charge for the next season: because he has to focus all his efforts on the Russian side’s World Cup efforts.
However, sitting on the bench next to Hiddink this season has been Ray Wilkins, who was appointed as caretaker manager before Hiddink was brought in to fill the void left by Scolari and who has had a couple of managerial stints in his own right with QPR and Fulham in the nineties. Which surely puts him in an excellent position to take charge of Chelsea for a season until Guus can return to the post full time.
Some will argue of course that Wilkins isn’t experienced or qualified enough to take charge for an entire season, and given that evidently Scolari wasn’t up to the job, they may have a point. But given that Chelsea’s team is already full of international stars and that Wilkins has been part of Hiddink’s revolution and has watched him work, I think he’d be more than capable of steering them through for a season, especially with Guus himself still at the club in a technical, advisory capacity.
So in all, I would have to say that if they know what’s best for them, the Chelsea officials may only be saying a temporary goodbye to Guus Hiddink. Though they cannot have him next season, I still feel it will be better in the long run for Chelsea if they don’t appoint Ancelotti but bide their time and await the return of good old Guus, as surely no one is quite as equipped to replace the still legendary Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge than the enigmatic Dutch man. Whether he does though, only time will tell…
Update: mere minutes after my publishing this post I got word that Carlo Ancelotti has been appointed as the new manager of Chelsea Football Club, and a quick click to the BBC Sport website confirms it. So this post becomes almost redundant, but I still feel that they may not have made the right choice. I guess now “only time will tell” if I’m right, as we see whether Ancelotti can replicate Hiddink’s success.