It was Guus Hiddink’s lightness of touch that persuaded Chelsea to reappoint the Dutchman as caretaker manager, despite a series of failed jobs since his last stint at Stamford Bridge seven years ago, and yesterday the veteran showed he had not lost his affable calm.
Responding to leaked reports of Thursday’s training ground dust-up between Oscar and Diego Costa, Hiddink compared the Brazilians to a pair of bulls fronting up to each other. “It was a pity that our photographer yesterday had a day off because he would have had some wonderful pictures of the two bulls after the charge from behind by the smaller bull Oscar,” said Hiddink.
We will never know how Jose Mourinho would have reacted, but given Chelsea’s calamitous season he is unlikely to have laughed coverage of the incident off in the same way.
Events began with a heavy tackle from behind by Oscar on Costa, who reacted angrily, said Hiddink. He added: “[Diego] took a charge from behind. It was overdone, especially when you know it is Oscar. He’s not the biggest tackler of the team. He got Diego and of course they stumbled over the ground, then stood up which is a normal reaction. They then chested a bit without the threat of punching. We came in between, but we did not have to grab them to avoid them hitting.
“It was the two bulls. I don’t like when they hit, but we had an intense, very sharp training session that’s close on the edge. Those things happen when you’re playing at high intensity. After that Oscar apologised in front of the group for overreacting. Then they looked at each other and started laughing. Jokes were made. It is solved. There is no need for discipline. It was solved within seconds.”
These incidents happen regularly at football clubs, though perhaps less so than was once the case, and were Chelsea top of the Premier League it would probably not have made headlines.
Instead the only table they lead is the wage bill chart. Yesterday the club was revealed to have the highest in the country, reclaiming that status from Manchester City, who dropped to third.
Chelsea’s £215.6m wage bill, a £25m increase on the previous season, put them ahead of Manchester United (£203m), Manchester City (£193.8m) and Arsenal (£192m). The figures include all employees, not just players. The latter, though, account for the vast bulk of the outlay and the rise is partially accounted for by bonuses with the club winning the Premier League and Capital One Cup.
The accounts showed a £22.6m pre-tax loss, a near-£40m negative swing on the previous year’s profitable campaign despite making £42m on player trading. Chelsea state the loss is within Uefa Fair Play parameters.
The club host League One Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup tomorrow with Hiddink promising to field a strong team likely to include Oscar and Costa. “Fourth place in the Premier League is difficult,” he said. “Then there are two targets left and one is the FA Cup. It’s a big target for this group of players to get it.”
Chelsea won the Cup in Hiddink’s previous spell and he said: “It means a lot because it was the only silverware we won. Besides if you see the impact of the FA Cup worldwide it has huge traditions.”
Confirming he will definitely leave at the end of the season he added: “I’ve put two dates in my mind, 21 and 28 May, then it’s finished. Those dates are [the] FA Cup [final] and Champions League [final]. Then I go home. We made it very clear that at the end of this then I will stop.”