Hunt for Chelsea coach: Rijkaard,Hiddink top contenders

Guus Hiddink,Frank Rijkaard and Avram Grant are among the leading candidates to take over as Chelsea manager following the firing of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Written by Associated Press | London | Published: February 10, 2009 4:57 pm

Guus Hiddink,Frank Rijkaard and Avram Grant are among the leading candidates to take over as Chelsea manager following the firing of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Hiddink’s agent said Tuesday he believed the Dutch coach preferred to stay on as Russia’s coach but would be prepared to listen to what Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had to offer.

“I think because of the personal relationship he has with Mr. Abramovich he will definitely talk to him and listen to him,” agent Cees van Niewenhuizen said. “But I think Mr. Abramovich realizes he also he has not finished his job (with Russia).”

Rijkaard’s representative said the former Barcelona coach had not yet been approached by Chelsea but was available and interested in the job.

“(He) is obviously a big fan of the game and a big fan of the Premier League so he can be interested in working in the Premier League,” Perry Overeem said.

Grant,who is a personal friend of Abramovich,coached Chelsea last year and took the Blues to the Champions League final.

Scolari was fired on Monday after six months at Chelsea,with the Blues languishing in fourth place in the Premier League. Assistant Ray Wilkins was put in interim charge.

Some Chelsea fans want the club to hire West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola in partnership with Robert Di Matteo of Milton Keynes Dons,who are both former Chelsea stars.

Jose Mourinho,who led Chelsea to back-to-back league titles,has also been linked with the job. But he is now with Italian champion and league leader Inter Milan and unlikely to return to Stamford Bridge after falling out with Abramovich last season.

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti was another name mentioned,but only as a candidate to take over at the end of the season. He has been at the San Siro since 2001 and his team is chasing Inter Milan in the Serie A title race as well as its first UEFA Cup title.

Hiddink would be a popular choice with the Chelsea fans because of his track record.

He 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 and now seeks to take the team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“I think that Guus and Mr. Abramovich know each other well enough,” Van Niewenhuizen said. “He’s not going to say he is not going to talk to (him) and he is not going to listen. He is focused on his job with Russia,he is with the team on a training camp in Turkey and he is looking forward to qualifying with Russia for the World Cup.”

Rijkaard,who has also been the Dutch national team coach,was fired by Barcelona near the end of last season after five years with the club,despite leading the team to two Spanish titles and a 2006 Champions League triumph.

Chelsea has changed its manager three times in the past 17 months but Overeem said Rijkaard would not be put off by that.

“Well,of course,it doesn’t make it a lot easier and Frank would take some more time to consider the opportunity,but I don’t think Frank will be scared off by those statistics,” the agent said. He will just think of himself as maybe the one candidate who can stay there longer than those earlier coaches.”

With only 13 games left in the Premier League campaign,Chelsea might consider a short-term appointment until the end of the season. The Blues are also in the Champions League,facing Juventus in the first knockout round Feb. 25 and March 10,and are also in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

If that happens,then Chelsea might target long-time AC Milan coach Ancelotti at the end of the season. Ancelotti was reported to be Abramovich’s preferred choice to take over from Grant at the end of last season but decided to stay at Milan,where he has won domestic and Champions League titles during his eight-year spell at San Siro.

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