When we think about the greatest managers in the world today, Guus Hiddink’s name is often mentioned. The likeable Dutchman has spent the last 20 years of his life building a successful managerial career, off of the back of a somewhat unsuccessful playing career. Over the past 2 decades, Hiddink has managed club sides like PSV, Real Madrid, Valencia and Chelsea as well as international teams like South Korea, Australia, Russia and of course Holland. Yesterday Hiddink, 66, announced that was all going to come to an end when he finally retired from management next summer. The current head coach of Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian League, has decided to move more into an advisory role, although has not confirmed if that is with Anzhi or another club just yet. Either way, Anzhi will have a task on their hands this coming summer to replace the Dutch master.
Hiddink started his playing career with his hometown youth team, SC Varsseveld before signing his first professional contract with De Graafschap in 1967. After spending two unsuccessful years at PSV, the young midfield grafter finally became a regular starter at De Graafschap and favourite of manager Piet de Visser in 1972, who forged a strong bond with the player which has stayed with them over the years. Hiddink played 130 times for the club and helped them to gain promotion back to the Eredivisie, Holland’s top league and to this day is still a firm fans favourite. In 1977, Guus was transferred to N.E.C. Nijmegen, where he spent the next 4 years of his life. His spell at N.E.C was never as fruitful as his time at De Graafschap and saw Hiddink twice go out on loan to US clubs, firstly with Washington Diplomats and then with San Jose Earthquakes, but the draw of De Graafschap still lingered with him. So when the opportunity arose, Hiddink jumped at the chance and rejoined for on final swan song year. He retired in 1982 from playing and almost immediately became assistant manager at the club to manager Huib Ruijgrok. This would be Hiddink’s first taste of management but it wasn’t long before he got his first full-time job as manager.
In 1984, PSV manager Jan Reker noticed Hiddink and remembered watching him play for De Graafschap so persuaded the then 38-year-old to leave his team and join him at PSV. The move to Eindhoven proved invaluable as Hiddink, Reker and PSV own the league title that year. He would remain as assistant until the sacking of Reker’s replacement, Hans Kraay allowed an opening for Hiddink to get his shot. He officially took over in March 1987 and led the team to the title that year which open the door to Hiddink’s first European adventure the following year. And what a year that would be. With a squad that contained the likes of Ronald Koeman, Eric Gerets, Søren Lerby and Wim Kieft, Hiddink led PSV to the treble, picking up the title, Dutch Cup and the clubs first ever European Cup beating Benfica in the final on penalties. Hiddink continued his success with PSV into the next season winning his third league title before deciding to leave to firstly manage Fenerbache then later Valencia but his biggest challenge was yet to come in the shape of the Dutch National Team.
Taking over the top job in 1995, Hiddink knew he had a squad of great individual players but not a team. Feuds between black and white dutch players were frequent and his no-nonsense approach to this was to take action, sending Edgar Davids home just weeks before Euro 1996. After surviving a group that contained England, Scotland and Switzerland, Holland would eventually be knocked out of Euro 1996 by France in the quarter finals on penalties. Hiddink would keep the job and lead them to World Cup 1998 in France where he would go one better and reach the semi finals before being knocked out by Brazil. Hiddink left after the tournament to move to Real Madrid but was sacked from there after making some off the cuff remarks about the clubs finances. A short spell at Real Betis followed before Hiddink’s next international experience.
South Korea were a team in development when Hiddink took charge. As joint hosts of the 2002 World Cup with Japan, the hosts were never considered to have a chance. But under the guidance of Hiddink, South Korea were the surprise team of the tournament, qualifying top of their group and knocking Portugal and Poland out in the process. A march to the semi finals, beating Italy then Spain along the way, was only halted by an impressive Germany but left South Korea fans with a sense of pride and football scouts from across Europe scrambling to grab their stars. After the tournament, Hiddink returned to PSV as manager, winning 3 titles and 2 cups in the next 4 years. Whilst in his final year at PSV, Hiddink announced that he would also be taking on the job of the Australian national team where he would become an ever increasingly popular figure with fans and players alike.
He led Australia into World Cup 2006 and after being knocked out by Italy, in dubious circumstances, Hiddink left for his next adventure, to manage the Russian national team. It was here, through old friend Piet de Visser that Hiddink would meet a wealthy billionaire called Roman Abramovich. A friendship started that would eventually led Abramovich to appoint Hiddink as head coach of his own team, Chelsea. Hiddink managed the team briefly after the sacking of Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari in February 2009 and led them for the next four months, winning the FA Cup in the process. Strangely Hiddink decided not to remain at Stamford Bridge but honour an older agreement with the Turkish FA to take over the national team so in June 2010, he left Chelsea to do just that. But Russian money was never far away from Hiddink and he was eventually tempted away from his role in February 2012 by a new Russian billionaire, Suleyman Kerimov and his team, FC Anzhi Makhachkala. With a star-studded team including Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o and millions to spend in the transfer market, Hiddink saw a chance to create something and took the challenge where he has remained ever since.
As the summer approaches, Hiddink gets closer to securing the Russian title to add to his collection. And with Anzhi still in the last 32 of the Europa League, he must be eyeing that trophy as well. Regardless if he wins it or not, Hiddink will go down as one of the most respected and loved coaches of all time. Many clubs and countries have benefited from his leadership skills over the years, some more than others. But what they all have in common is that they will look back at Hiddink’s contribution and mark it a defining moment in their football history.