The worst football transfer in the world?

Ex-Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit now runs a Chechen warlord's team. Does he know what he's getting into?

It's a long way from Chelsea to Grozny, but in one of the most extraordinary appointments in recent sporting history, the legendary Dutch footballer and former Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit has been unveiled as the new manager of Terek Grozny, the Russian premier league club from the country's restive region of Chechnya.

The outlandish appointment will lead many to suspect that thoughts of his wallet have got in the way of Gullit's ethical radar. His direct boss will be Ramzan Kadyrov, the former rebel fighter who is now the Moscow-backed President of Chechnya.

Accused of all manner of human rights abuses, Mr Kadyrov is also the president of the football club. He said yesterday that he was excited to welcome the Dutchman to the club and expected that with him in charge, Terek had a serious chance of winning the Champions League.

Mr Kadyrov has been keen to use football to boost the image of Chechnya in Russia and the world. When the country won the right to host the 2018 World Cup last month, he quickly stated that Grozny was a perfect football venue and should be added to the list of host cities for the tournament.

Nobody took him particularly seriously. Grozny, which was ravaged by two wars with Moscow over the past 15 years, has been rebuilt under Mr Kadyrov's watch and the Islamic insurgency has, for the most part, moved to neighbouring regions.

But the situation is still extremely tense, with the Foreign Office advising against all travel to Chechnya without exception. There are still occasional suicide bombings and shootouts, while human rights groups have reported hundreds of cases of torture and kidnappings which they allege are often carried out by paramilitary forces loyal to Mr Kadyrov.

Gullit has not yet travelled to Chechnya or met with Mr Kadyrov, but he said yesterday he was delighted to have signed an 18-month contract and had been promised funds with which to build the team.

The Chechen club announced in December that it had appointed Victor Munoz, the former Spain player and manager of several Spanish league clubs, as its manager. However, after arriving in Grozny last week, Mr Munoz swiftly walked out on the club over the weekend. Terek said he had demanded changes to his contract; the Spanish coach declined to comment. Gullit, it seems, is happy to take the money. It's unclear how much he is being paid, but it is likely to have taken a serious financial commitment to bring him to Chechnya.

In a December interview, the club's Vice President promised that after a Chechen businessman had taken interest in the club, they now had almost unlimited finances and would buy several world-class players.

Yesterday, Mr Kadyrov outlined the huge expectations for the team under Gullit, demanding a top-eight finish this season and European football by the end of next season for Terek, which finished 12th in the Russian league last year. "Gullit has won almost all the most prestigious cups," said Mr Kadyrov. "I'm sure that together with him we'll be able to win the Champions' League."

For a footballer who – both as a player and manager – has had frequent personality clashes with teammates and colleagues, the challenge will be immense. Former manager of Chelsea, Newcastle and LA Galaxy, Gullit walked out of the Dutch national team as a player after a conflict with the manager. He also got into a conflict at Chelsea with then-Chairman Ken Bates, who famously said of the Dutchman: "I never liked him."

Working with Mr Kadyrov will be a challenge of a different scale. It will be intriguing to see how Mr Gullit deals with any disagreements over transfer policy, for example. Mr Kadyrov, in a recent meeting with local officials, gave an insight into his leadership strategy: "I'm the boss here. I'm at the wheel," he said, on television. "There is nobody else, except me. Do you understand? Ramzan – and that's it! Nobody else! Ramzan! There's Ramzan and then there's everyone else."

The 34-year old Mr Kadyrov has ruled the republic along these lines since the death of his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, in May 2004, who was killed in a huge bomb blast while watching a military parade at the stadium where Terek now play their home games. The club only returned to Chechnya in 2008; previously they had played home matches outside the region, when Grozny was deemed too dangerous.

Gullit will have to hope that he doesn't lose too many games or fail to come up to Mr Kadyrov's ambitious targets – those who get on the wrong side of him have an unnerving habit of meeting sticky ends. Two brothers from the powerful Yamadayev clan, which fell out with Mr Kadyrov, were both shot dead: one in Moscow in 2008, the other in Dubai the following year. Dubai police accused Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian parliament for Chechnya and Mr Kadyrov's cousin, of organising the murder. An Iranian stable hand who looks after Mr Kadyrov's horses in the Arab emirate was jailed for carrying out the killing with a gold-plated pistol, which the Dubai police allege was provided by Mr Delimkhanov. He denies this.

Others to meet unpleasant ends include Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who wrote about torture and rights abuses in Chechnya. She was shot and killed in the stairwell of her Moscow apartment block in 2006.

Natalya Estemirova, a human rights worker who lived in Chechnya and was one of the few people brave enough to investigate the cases of kidnapping and disappearances that are widespread in the republic, was abducted from outside her Grozny apartment in 2009 and her body later dumped in a neighbouring republic. Mr Kadyrov denies involvement in any of the murders. In the case of Ms Politkovskaya he absolved himself by saying he "would not kill a woman".

"Maybe Gullit read Wikipedia and decided that Kadyrov is a Mandela-like figure," wrote the Russian news website lenta.ru, with its tongue firmly in its cheek.

Gullit dedicated his European Player of the Year Award in 1987 to the still-imprisoned Nelson Mandela and – in recent years – has interviewed his former icon on his Dutch television talk show.

"He'll have the chance to discern the difference between the intellectual South African leader and this lover of tracksuit bottoms and gold-plated pistols when he meets Mr Kadyrov on 22 January," wrote the website's editorial.

Chelsea vs Grozny

Post-match drinks

There was no shortage of bars in Gullit's former stomping ground. No such luck in Grozny – Chechnya is dry, part of Mr Kadyrov's drive to instil Islamic values. For a small bribe, some cafés will let you smuggle in beer to drink out of a teacup.



WAG hangouts

While London offers copious haunts, such as Mayfair's Whisky Mist, WAGs should take care in Grozny – gangs of youths have taken to roaming the streets and shooting women not wearing headscarves with paintball guns.



The main drag

Vying with the King's Road is Grozny's Putin Avenue. The bizarre new name was Mr Kadyrov's personal thank you to the Russian prime minister for financing the rebuilding of Grozny, which Putin had ordered to be bombed in 2000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all