Dare Hiddink risk what can be a graveyard for reputations?


Click to follow
The Independent Football

The men who do Roman Abramovich's bidding at Chelsea wasted no time yesterday in toppling the sixth manager to work for the Russian billionaire - which makes you believe that the next candidate has already been lined up.

Carlo Ancelotti has been dead man walking at Chelsea for some time now and so the only surprise was that it came so swiftly in the aftermath of yesterday's 1-0 defeat away to Everton. Step forward Guus Hiddink, potentially a reluctant Chelsea director of football who may, like many others, discover that Abramovich is a difficult man to refuse.

Abramovich has always pined after Hiddink, who came in on a temporary basis after the disastrous eight months of Luiz Felipe Scolari and won the FA Cup with Chelsea in May 2009. For Abramovich, it seems the ideal man who wins the Champions League and the Premier League, accepts the players signed for him and causes no trouble is only ever one good appointment away. This time it looks like Hiddink plus one other.

In the brave new world of Chelsea where, it appears, Abramovich will be much more hands on over the summer and next season, he regards Hiddink in the role of director of football alongside a younger coach as the solution. If that is the route that Chelsea have chosen then it is a bold move by Abramovich.

The system is untried in English football and all Chelsea's recent success - the two Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho and the third last season under Ancelotti - have been won with an orthodox manager. Hiddink will be 65 in November. That is late in life to be taking on the responsibility of fulfilling Abramovich's dream.

Under Abramovich, every manager who has failed to win the league with Chelsea in any given season has been sacked - apart from Scolari who never got an entire season and Mourinho who limped on to the following September in 2007. That is pressure. If Chelsea are to adopt a new system with a coach working under Hiddink, that coach will have to accept that his status is nothing like that of his Premier League peers.

It rules out a whole cast of characters. The precocious Andre Villas Boas, at 33 already a Portuguese title and Europa League winner with Porto would not want the job on those terms. And you could not see Pep Guardiola, Rafael Benitez or Harry Redknapp agreeing to them either.

Chelsea is a wonderful football club with a recent history of success, great players and the possibility of more joining in the summer. But it can also be a graveyard for reputations. Mourinho came back from his sacking but Scolari has disappeared from meaningful competition and if Ancelotti is serious about putting himself forward for the West Ham job then he too must have grown a little desperate.

If Hiddink takes the job then it will only be after Abramovich has persuaded him, which is not the ideal start. The director of football/coach partnership may well turn out to be the answer to all Abramovich's prayers but something tells us that this will not be the last time Chelsea's enigmatic owner sacks a manager and goes off in pursuit of an alternative to solve all his problems.

Names in the frame for Chelsea

Andre Villas-Boas (odds: 2-1 Fav)

Highly-rated 33-year-old completed the quadruple with Porto yesterday. Previously worked at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho (7-2)

Blues fans would love to see the return of the Special One, but is already rebuilding his Real Madrid side for next season.

Guus Hiddink (7-2)

Stamford Bridge favourite after winning FA Cup in 2009 during brief spell. Currently coach of Turkey.

Harry Redknapp (4-1)

Would fancy another crack at Europe's elite club competition.

Marco van Basten (10-1)

Recommended by Hiddink, but yet to make real impact as a manager.

Frank Rijkaard (14-1)

Led Barcelona to Champions League glory in 2006. Available now.

Rafael Benitez (16-1)

Proven record in getting the best out of Fernando Torres.