As Guus Hiddink was all-but confirmed as Luiz Felipe Scolari's successor as Chelsea manager yesterday, the club's captain John Terry implied that it had been Scolari's failure to control the dressing room at Stamford Bridge that was at the heart of his dismissal. Terry, the captain of England as well as Chelsea, said that Scolari had his full "support" but, tellingly, added: "Two or three other players will say exactly the same thing, I'm sure."
Perhaps too much can be read into Terry's phraseology but it is clear he felt that only a small minority – "two or three others" as he put it – were backing the Brazilian. Terry's claim comes as it has also been revealed that the club owner, Roman Abramovich, on a flying visit to London last week, travelled to the Chelsea training ground to canvass a handful of senior players about Scolari. These are thought to include Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Petr Cech but not Terry.
The defender said he would "go into details" after England's friendly tonight against Spain as to how he feels about the decision to sack Scolari. "I'm just very shocked by what's happened," Terry said. "I have sympathy for Scolari. He's a great man. Unfortunately we weren't playing well and it falls on his head. Maybe they should look at some of us. We did under-achieve. But we'll talk about it after the game, if that's ok."
Given he is the most powerful personality among the Chelsea squad, then Terry's words have added weight. He certainly appeared angered by events and his suggestions of a divided dressing room and an unhappy squad confirms ,once again, the divisions and problems encountered by Scolari who had called a series of meetings to try and hold the players together.
It appears that task will now fall, for the time being at least, to Hiddink who has been cleared by the Russian Football Association to take over as Chelsea's manager until the end of the season and fulfil the remit of an "interim manager". Hiddink has told friends he had "no choice" but to accept the job after direct approaches from Abramovich before he sacked Scolari on Monday. An announcement is expected before the weekend.
"We are not against Guus Hiddink working in both posts until the summer," said Andrei Malasov, a spokesman for the Russian FA. The association's president Vitaly Mutko was also expected to make a statement last night but given Malasolov added that "he himself is in two posts" he is unlikely to object to allowing Hiddink to fly to London. He is currently in Turkey at a training camp with the Russian squad.
Abramovich will be delighted that he has finally got his man – albeit possibly only on a short-term basis – though there are misgivings from some around the club that Hiddink will struggle to combine the job with remaining coach of Russia. Because his appointment, initially at least, is for less than six months it may further unsettle an already unhappy squad.
Chelsea will decide on their next step at the end of the season and are considering a shortlist of candidates to take over on a permanent basis. It is headed by the Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti and, surprisingly, Manchester City's Mark Hughes.
The club will also review Hiddink's own performance, and if he does well, may ask him to stay on. For now at least, the 62-year-old is adamant the appointment is temporary. Sources in the Netherlands suggested last night that Hiddink may be keen to create a situation whereby Frank Rijkaard, a close friend who was his assistant with the Dutch national team, succeeds him at Stamford Bridge.
Rijkaard left Barcelona last year, and is travelling the world and spending time at his home in Amsterdam where Hiddink also passes the majority of his time. There is already a suggestion that Hiddink may install Johann Neeskens, another friend and Rijkaard's former assistant at Barça, at Chelsea. His relationship with Frank Arnesen, Chelsea head of youth development, has improved and he is also well-known to Abramovich's personal adviser Piet de Visser.
Rijkaard has been courted by Chelsea before, but was not approached after Avram Grant was sacked last summer, while the attraction of Ancelotti is obvious. He has won the European Cup twice as a player, and twice as Milan's coach. Yesterday Milan's organising director, Umberto Gandini, suggested that Ancelotti might leave at the end of the season. Speaking in Geneva at the European Clubs' Association general assembly, Gandini said: "I cannot talk on behalf of Carlo but I don't think he would be interested in doing anything now. But if the position will be open in July then I think he might consider it. "
Hughes, whose cause has been championed by the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, would appear an unlikely candidate although he does have backers among some of those who advise Abramovich.
Chelsea confirmed yesterday that they had been given permission to speak to Hiddink to combine the role of Russia coach with being their manager "on a temporary basis". Earlier, Hiddink said: "If it was any other club my answer would be a straight 'no'. But Chelsea is different because I have good relations with the owner. I would like to help them if I could.
"This would only be for the next two or three months until the end of the season. I will not leave my job with the Russian national team."
Two-job shuffle: Hiddink's schedule
Guus Hiddink's busiest period could be the end of next month when he will combine his club duties with that of Russia all within a few days:
15 March Chelsea v Man City
21 March Tottenham v Chelsea
28 March Russia v Azerbaijan
1 April Liechtenstein v Russia
4 April Newcastle United v Chelsea
7/8 April Champions League quarter-final first leg (if qualified)