When Guus Hiddink left Chelsea in May 2009, he told the club's owner Roman Abramovich that he would always be willing to help out again if he was needed. Now he is being asked to come good on that promise.
Hiddink, 64, is currently preparing for Turkey's Euro 2012 qualifier against Belgium at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Friday week. As build-up to the game, he will lead the Turkish squad to a training camp in Tegelen, the Netherlands, on Thursday for a week of preparation.
Chelsea are nonetheless confident that Hiddink will leave his job as manager of Turkey after that game, making him free for a second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge following the ruthless sacking of Carlo Ancelotti on Sunday afternoon.
Hiddink is contracted to the Turkish national side until the final of the European Championship next summer, but it is understood Chelsea believe a deal can be struck that would see the veteran Dutch manager released from his contract by mutual consent.
Chelsea would prefer Hiddink to take sole charge of the team, as he did so successfully in 2009 when they lost just one game out of 22 matches following the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari. He ended on a high note, winning the FA Cup final at Wembley, and has been retained as an unpaid adviser to owner Roman Abramovich on an ad hoc basis ever since.
His agent, Cees van Nieuwenhuizen, said yesterday that Hiddink is not against returning to full-time club management, scotching suggestions that he is too old to take on a day-to-day coaching job.
"I don't know that you can say that," Van Nieuwenhuizen said. "He is focusing on his job and he likes what he is doing. As long as he is in the race for the European Championship with Turkey, he would continue to focus on that. Once that is finished, he will start thinking about his future."
Key figures within Turkish football have, however, fallen out of love with Hiddink in recent months. According to sources in Turkey, there is a growing opinion that Hiddink does not spend enough time in the country, preferring to remain in the Netherlands, and has not been willing to promote more younger players into the team.
Hiddink is also under increasing pressure back home in the Netherlands, where he has admitted he is considering an offer from Johan Cruyff to take a place on the board of Ajax. This has caused outrage from PSV Eindhoven supporters, where he is revered as a club legend having managed the team twice before. He also has an offer on the table from PSV to return to the club in an advisory role. This is a man very much in demand. Chelsea are confident that the bottomless pockets of owner Abramovich will enable them to plot a course through Hiddink's complex employment picture.
However, that is not the only complication involved with employing the Dutchman, whose long managerial CV includes spells in charge of Real Madrid, Valencia and Real Betis as well as being national coach of Australia, South Korea, Russia and the Netherlands before taking the Turkey job.
Hiddink is believed to favour a more supervisory role at the club, following the departure of Chelsea's sporting director Frank Arnesen, who started his new job at Hamburg yesterday. Hiddink would favour working as a director of football, with a younger coach, such as former Ajax and Holland coach Marco van Basten, under him. But Chelsea are believed to want Hiddink to take charge of team affairs.
A compromise could yet see Hiddink take charge for a year, while he grooms the next manager in anticipation of a move upstairs in 2012. The fact that both Ancelotti and Arnesen have left the club within days of each other leaves Chelsea embarrassingly short of a visible leader, with chief executive Ron Gourlay in sole charge of tying up some of the club's transfer targets in the short term.
It is understood that Hiddink has been consulted on players such as Ajax's Gregory van der Wiel and the Brazilian wonderkid Neymar at Santos, and has given his backing to their signing. Chelsea also see the current situation as a chance to reassess the structure of the club, and may decide not to have a director of football at all. The key appointment is a return for Hiddink, one way or another.
The Dutchman is rated very highly by everyone at Chelsea, following his three-month spell in charge two years ago, when they were very unfortunate to lose to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final on the away goals rule to a 94th-minute equaliser in the second leg.
The same, however, cannot be said of his compatriot Van Basten, who has been out of football since he quit as manager of Ajax in May 2009 when they failed to qualify for the Champions League despite spending £32m on new players. He was clearly out of his depth and his time at Ajax ended in humiliation when he was dubbed the "pannenkoek" – pancake – by supporters.
Ancelotti, meanwhile, said his farewells to senior Chelsea players over a few beers in central London on Sunday night. He joined John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and several other members of his staff for a late-night drink following his dismissal within an hour of Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.
Ancelotti was said to have been "on great form" as he said goodbye to the men he had led to the FA Cup and Premier League Double just 12 months earlier.
Last night Ancelotti attended the League Managers’ Association annual dinner where Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to him. Speaking on a live link from Old Trafford, Ferguson said: “Carlo you are a fantastic man and you have shown great courage in coming to the dinner tonight. Well done.”
Seven years, six men: Abramovich's managers
Jose Mourinho (2004-07)
Win ratio: Premier League: 73%
Trophies: League 2, FA Cup 1, League Cup 2
Claudio Ranieri (2003-04)
Win ratio: Premier League: 63%
Guus Hiddink (2009)
Win ratio: Premier League: 85%
Trophies: FA Cup 1
Avram Grant (2007-08)
Win ratio: Premier League: 69%
Luiz Felipe Scolari (2008-09)
Win ratio: Premier League: 56%
Carlo Ancelotti (2009-11)
Win ratio: Premier League: 63%
Trophies: League 1 FA Cup 1