Chelsea caretaker boss Guus Hiddink said Friday the Premier League champions should name their new full-time manager as soon as they have made an appointment.
Italy coach Antonio Conte has emerged as the leading candidate to take charge of the London club next season by which time’s Hiddink’s stint as interim manager is due to have come to an end.
The Dutchman was charged with bringing stability to the club after the December dismissal of Jose Mourinho.
Since arriving for his second spell at Stamford Bridge, Hiddink has halted the club’s slide down the Premier League table and steered the west London side into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
And while he insists he has not been involved in the decision to identify Mourinho’s permanent successor, Hiddink believes there is no need for secrecy when the process has been completed.
“I am always in favour, but it’s personal opinion that when things are done you make it transparent,” Hiddink told a news conference at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, south-west of London, on Friday.
“Of course this club is searching now for experienced managers they like and there are a lot. It’s up to them to make up their mind and make the decisions.”
If Conte is appointed, it will be the first time he has worked in England.
The globe-trotting Hiddink has plenty of first-hand experience of the challenges of moving to a different country, having managed in Spain and England, as well as taking charge of both the South Korea and Russia national sides in a coaching career that started in the 69-year-old’s native Netherlands.
“It’s always exciting (going to another country),” said Hiddink. “You want to get as soon as possible into the culture of the country of course and, more, the culture of the club.
“You want to learn the language as soon as possible. You have your own football language and it’s not perfect of course. But it is best to get as soon as possible into the football culture of a club or a country.”
– Koeman reunion –
Hiddink will attempt to extend his unbeaten domestic record at Southampton on Saturday when he will be reunited with Dutch great Ronald Koeman, the Saints manager who played under Hiddink at PSV Eindhoven in the 1980s.
“It’s easy to say now but I had no doubt he would make manager,” Hiddink, who later managed the Dutch national side, said. “In 1986 we tried to establish a team of good personalities. I am always of the opinion a manager has limited power when the game has gone on.
“I was looking for a spine for the team which you can compare in team meetings. He was in the spine, one of the leaders. Maybe he was mid-20s at the time and you can see what happened at that young age, he had the possibility (to become a manager).
“Last year he did a terrific job (at Southampton), this year he started well. The club was very stable but regained their confidence in recent games, it’s up to us to try and control them.”
Chelsea will travel to the south coast without skipper John Terry, still sidelined with a hamstring problem.
“He will not be fit,” said Hiddink. “You want to be careful with this type of injury, with the tendon or hamstring,” he added.
“We have Norwich on Tuesday and we will see if he (Terry) is fit and available for Stoke the following weekend.”
Alexandre Pato will again be forced to wait for his Chelsea debut as he continues to build up match-fitness.
“He needs to get sharpness and be competitive,” said Hiddink. “We now have three strikers available plus Falcao.
“Diego Costa is doing his job very well and I’m rather satisfied with his performance and, including Bertrand Traore, they have to compete (for a place).”