There is no doubt who is the man of the football week. And no, however much we might agree with his comments, it's not Usain Bolt for calling Ronaldo a "wuss". It is Guus Hiddink, the self-effacing, part-time Chelsea coach who masterminded the destruction of Europe's form side Liverpool and then made out as if it was something anyone could have done just as long as they knew where to look.
In the stands at Stamford Bridge they must be asking two questions about the clever Dutchman who has landed in their midst. First: since Roman Abramovich has been paying his salary for more than three years now as Russian coach, how come he didn't get him to come and help earlier? And, now that he is here, can we keep him?
Hiddink's arrival has been a bit of a triumph for Abramovich. Far from being the interfering megalomaniac who doesn't know what he is doing (which is how I for one depicted him back in December) his removal of Luiz Felipe Scolari and hiring of Hiddink appears to have been a masterstroke. Not for one moment could you imagine a Chelsea team prepared by Scolari demolishing Liverpool like they did on Wednesday. Frankly, given how wayward they had become under his direction, you doubt they would have even made the quarter-final in the first place.
Sure, Hiddink has been blessed by the return of Michael Essien, the man who effectively emasculated Liverpool by cutting off all supply to Steven Gerrard. But it wasn't luck that did it on Wednesday night. It was analysis, finding a tactical approach and then preparing the players properly on the training ground for it. Football is a simple game when you know what you are doing. And Hiddink makes it simpler than most.
So, the important question is: will he stay beyond May? At the moment it looks hugely unlikely. Hiddink's is no small task in Moscow. He has been charged not only with ensuring qualification for the World Cup, but, once there, with taking them at least as far as he steered South Korea in 2002 - the semi-finals. Not even a man who makes it all look as easy as he does can do that and control a club of Chelsea's stature.
Besides, Abramovich faces a sizeable problem if he tries to alter the employment conditions of his Dutch associate. After Russia beat England to qualify for Euro 2008, Hiddink became a national hero. Anyone attending the Champions League final in Moscow in May could not escape his image, beaming down from advertising hoardings across the city. He is their adopted son. Abramovich, on the other hand, has a much less savoury public image in his homeland. He is regarded by many as the most brazen of the country's asset strippers, a man who has exported huge chunks of the wealth of the nation. They don't all wander round in Chelsea shirts in Moscow, largely because they wonder why Abramovich didn't pump his booty into a local side. How come Dinamo or Spartak aren't in the Champions League quarter final beating Liverpool? How come all that money extracted from Russian resources is being used to promote English interests?
Thus for him to poach Hiddink would be political suicide. Never mind that, in effect, it would be just a case of a slight switch on the payroll, the wider consequences would be dramatic. And, with so many of his assets still in his homeland, Abramovich cannot afford to antagonise the Russian bear any more than he already has. However much he may dislike it, he knows Hiddink is off limits as far as Chelsea are concerned. This is one man even his money cannot buy.
So therefore, just as it seems as if the solution has been found to Chelsea's managerial woes, it will be taken away. Hiddink will have to leave in May and Abramovich will be obliged once more to begin his search for a coach. Carlo Ancelotti has been widely tipped. The players have said they want a return of Jose Mourinho. Chief executive Peter Kenyon is said to favour the old Chelsea hero Mark Hughes. But whoever comes in will know that they are not the boss's chosen one. That particular individual will be working elsewhere in the Roman empire.
- Roman Abramovich
- Guus Hiddink