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, 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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'