Hiddink appointed temporary Chelsea manager
LONDON (AP) - Guus Hiddink agreed Wednesday to manage Chelsea until the end of the season while continuing to coach Russia’s national team.
Chelsea said the 62-year-old Dutchman will meet his new players later this week ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup match at Watford. He replaces Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was fired on Monday after seven months as manager.
Hiddink said he was taking the Chelsea job out of solidarity with owner Roman Abramovich, who is the financial backer of the Russian national team.
"There’s a special relationship between Russian and Chelsea by Roman Abramovich," Hiddink said on Sky Sports. "He asked me and the federation to help out because he’s doing a lot for the federation and Russian football and it’s an exemption because we try to help each other."
Hiddink will remain as Russia coach as the team seeks to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
"It’s the sort of situation that everyone needs to get what’s best for themselves," Hiddink told Russian television from the team’s training camp in Turkey. "It’s not a simple time for people, including for the (Russian Football Union). However, people working in the federation and at Chelsea, they have good relations, they ought to, ready to help one another. In any case, no one will lose out."
It is likely Hiddink will only be a spectator Saturday, and then be in charge for the following weekend’s Premier League match at Aston Villa. Assistant Ray Wilkins is coaching the team on an interim basis.
Hiddink hasn’t ruled out staying at Chelsea permanently.
"There are two scenarios," he said. "Either they say: ‘Go back to the East’ or it all goes well, and then ... but that is not ideal."
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is considered the favorite to take over on a permanent basis next summer.
"If the position will be open in July then I think he might consider it," Milan director Umberto Gandini said. "He did already have a chance to consider it when he was approached last summer."
Russia has two World Cup qualifying games over the course of the rest of the English league season - at home to Azerbaijan on March 28 and away to Liechtenstein four days later.
Those dates should not conflict with Chelsea league games, and the qualifiers are games Russia should win comfortably as it chases Germany for the top spot in Group 4.
"We are in a great position and there will be no damage for the Russian national team," Hiddink said. "I will be focused now and in the future on the Russian national team."
Only the group winner is guaranteed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with the runner-up then chasing a playoff spot.
"The national team is undoubtedly a priority for the coach. There is no talking about it," Russian Football Union President Vitaly Mutko said. "We are strictly following the contract terms. He will continue to be the chief coach of the national (team)."
As for combining the two jobs, Mutko said, "It doesn’t influence the situation in Russia in any way. It’s a common practice for the coach to come here when the team is being trained for the games, on the days of the games to support it. Such practice will continue."
The Chelsea job will be Hiddink’s first with a top European side since a stint in 1998 at Real Madrid, which lasted less than a year before being fired.
Hiddink won domestic and European club titles with PSV Eindhoven and, at international level, led the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semifinals, South Korea to the same stage four years later and took underdog Australia to the second round in 2006. At Euro 2008, he guided outsider Russia to the semifinals.