With Guus Hiddink odds on favourite to take over the reigns at Chelsea on a permanent basis during his second spell at the club, the news that the move for the Dutchman could cost £15m will come as a surprise to many – but is Hiddink really worth that much? And more pertinently, does his appointment signal little more than a continuation of the short-term managerial merry-go-round that has done nothing but hinder Chelsea of late?
I’m not going to lie to you, I’m playing devils advocate here. Everyone seems fairly certain that the job is Hiddink’s to turn down, which he has shown no indication as yet that he intends on doing. His first spell at the club as caretaker boss after Felipe Scolari’s departure in 2009 was a resounding success. So often in football, short spells such as Hiddink’s have a tendency to be overly romanticised, but in this case, Hiddink definitely did do an outstanding job.
He took over a fantastic side low on confidence and crucially did what Scolari had failed to do – made them perform to the best of their abilities. He won the FA Cup final against Everton and won 15 of his 21 games in charge in total, losing just once to Spurs in the league. He also came just a hair’s breadth away from taking them to the Champions League final after being knocked out by an Andres Iniesta goal in the 93rd minute at Stamford Bridge at the semi-final stage. In short, a fantastic spell.
However, it has since come to light that should Roman Abramovich wish to employ Hiddink as the club’s next manager, the move could set the Chairman back a cool £15m in compensation and wages over the course of the next year. Sure, it’s small change to a man such as Abramovich, but is Hiddink really worth that hefty sum? Is any manager worth that sum? I’m doubtful on both counts.
The Turkish FA are thought to be keen so pursue the maximum amount of compensation that they are entitled to squeeze from the Russian oligarch, thought to be in the region of £3m. Then there is the £6m compensation figure to be issued to former manager Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian would have only receive half that figure if he went onto manage a club within 6 months of his departure from Stamford Bridge, but his decision last week to take a year-long sabbatical from the game should be seen as a middle-fingered salute to his former boss in the only language that the Russian understands – money.
Hiddink is thought to be demanding a similar wage to Ancelotti’s £6m a year which brings the total to £15m. Interestingly, Ancelotti’s sacking also brings the total compensatory packages dished out by Abramovich to sacked managers and coaches since he took over the club seven years ago to an astonishing £74m – a remarkably short-sighted structure for a club the size of Chelsea to operate with.
Hiddink has also failed in the last two international jobs to secure progress to an international tournament – firstly with Russia and the 2010 World Cup and more recently with Turkey and Euro 2012 qualification. His stock with Chelsea fans and their Chairman remain sky high, but on the international stage at least, it’s taken a bit of a dent.
There is also the nature of the deal to contend with. Hiddink is now 64 years of age and any deal is likely to be around 2 years in length. It can hardly be said to be planning for the future to employ Hiddink for such a short period of time, especially when there is such a big rebuilding job to be done at Stamford Bridge in the immediate future. Surely appointing a younger coach such as Porto’s Andre Villas-Boas or Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp would make much more sense in the long run. The job that faces Hiddink now is very different to the one that he had in 2009.
Could it not be considered somewhat financially reckless to entrust a significant rebuilding plan to a manager who may not be around to see the job through? If Hiddink is moved upstairs, an entirely possible situation considering his close relationship with Abramovich, then there are further legacy and succession issues to deal with. Does the next manager’s vision have to fit in with Hiddink’s? Will that decide who gets the job in the future? The handover could be very messy. These are the sorts of questions that have completely glossed over in the club’s pursuit of their man – it may be fine for the short-term, but what happens afterwards can often prove just as important.
It’s also worth remembering, barring his 4-month stint as Chelsea caretaker boss in 2009, Hiddink hasn’t been involved with the day-to-day running of a football club since his time with PSV ended in 2006 and he’s only held one full-time managerial position at club level in the last decade.
Roman Abramovich is thought to be keen on Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in two years time after Hiddink steps down. However, what is truly narrowing the field with concerns to the club’s managerial choices in the future has to be the chopping and changing nature of their overbearing Chairman. Abramovich could well and truly turn out to be their Achilles heel.
Why would a world-class manager want to move to Chelsea when the confines that he has to work within are always so strict and the stakes so high? Coupled with the constant threat of being undermined at every turn and the job, where it was once one the most appealing going in Europe, begins to look more like an uphill task even for the most qualified. To put it simply, how do you satisfy an obsessive character such as Abramovich?
In all honesty, Hiddink remains a fine candidate for the job, but we shouldn’t be so myopic in thinking he’s the only man for the job. He’s being painted as a returning hero in some sections of the media; the man to topple Man Utd and bring and end to their top flight dominance. But dig a little deeper, and a few doubts do begin to surface when discussing the topic of his appointment.
Simply because it’s been expected to happen for so long does not necessarily make it the right move for the club in the long-term. Stop gap appointments rarely work out and all they do is make the job all the more difficult for the man who inherits the role next. Hiddink looks set to take the job, but whether it is the best option for all concerned remains to be seen. If it all goes tits up though, fret not Chelsea fans, Bryan Robson has just left his job as Thailand manager – you know, just thought I’d throw it out there while I’m here playing devils advocate.