sports blog by andy shenk

Guus Hiddink Steps Down at Anzhi Makhachkala

In Anzhi, Russian Football on July 23, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Originally published at Russian Football News. Click here to read the entire article or at the end of this excerpt.

I got the news last night from Ashraff Hasnan, another RFN contributor, who also happened to be at the CSKA – Krylia Sovetov match in Khimki. On the trip home from the arena, overhearing several more conversations about Hiddink’s departure, I had the sense everyone else, like me, was trying to process what had happened. Had Hiddink truly resigned? Was he diplomatically asked to leave by Suleyman Kerimov after a draw at home to Lokomotiv and loss to Dynamo? Or had Anzhi planned this transition months in advance, buying up key players with Hiddink as figurehead, then using his sudden departure to give the team a much-needed jolt?

It seems clear now that former Manchester United pitch coach Rene Meulensteen was, at the least, brought in as insurance. I remember watching him feed balls to Willian, Ionov and Eto’o in warm-ups before Friday’s loss to Dynamo, while Hiddink sat by himself on the bench pre-match. Now we’ll see if the Dutchman has the savvy and presence to gain the players’ confidence and help them compete for silverware.

But it’s far too early to say much about Meulensteen, at least with regards to Anzhi. It’s Hiddink we’re still thinking about – the brilliant psychologist, venerable journeyman, and, perhaps, over-the-hill tactician.

When he returned to Russia in February 2012 to replace Yuri Krasnozhan, the excitement in Makhachkala was sky-high. At the first meeting with the team, the players and staff even applauded his appearance – the perception of Hiddink as a rock star in Russia will probably never fade. But Hiddink, clearly aware of Anzhi’s long road ahead, had words of caution: “Let’s hold the applause until our joint success.

Hiddink joined Anzhi after a tumultuous stretch 4-month period in which Dagestani coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev was shown the door, Krasnozhan was hired, then fired a month and a half later, and several Anzhi executives were removed or slotted into new positions. The club was actually on the verge of signing Guus back in December 2011, before the Krasnozhan camp won out in the boardroom. But when Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o reportedly told owner Suleyman Kerimov that he had to decide between them or Krasnozhan, Hiddink once again became target #1 and was convinced a few days later to join the club.

In practice reports, player interviews and commentary from the press, Hiddink was portrayed from the start as a master psychologist, able to connect with and command the respect of everyone on the team, from Eto’o to the end of the bench. He had some early success, a 3-0 thrashing of Spartak in Moscow the highlight from spring 2012, but it would be the coming summer and autumn when Hiddink’s stock rose highest.

Continue reading at Russian Football News.

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