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 By PA Sport

Chelsea's Guus Hiddink plays down rift with Southampton's Ronald Koeman

Guus Hiddink has insisted his relationship with Ronald Koeman has recovered from the time they were rivals to be manager of Netherlands.

Koeman wanted to succeed Louis van Gaal after the 2014 World Cup and was disappointed that he was only offered the role of Hiddink's assistant at a time when he had long been respected as a manager, and that it was the Dutch Football Association and not Hiddink who made the offer.

It affected a long and positive relationship, which began with Hiddink inspiring PSV Eindhoven and Koeman to a 1988 European Cup triumph, and Koeman has this week spoken of the current Chelsea interim manager's positive influence.

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But Koeman also said he and Hiddink had still not discussed what happened two years ago.

Hiddink left the Holland post in June 2015, by which time Koeman was in charge at Southampton where his reputation has been enhanced.

With Chelsea visiting Koeman's in-form Saints team in the Premier League on Saturday, Hiddink is adamant they are again on good terms.

"The Holland job was a misunderstanding not by us two,'' Hiddink said. "So it was nothing to do with me or with him about that, it was federation policy, it was nothing to do between us.

"So I had every now and then, not in recent times, but every now and then I have contact with him. And with his brother [Erwin, Koeman's assistant at Southampton].

"Ronald was easy to manage [as a player] because he was very keen on performance and winning. And if you have the same idea that I have, this extreme urge to win, and not just to win in the regular games but also as an attitude when it's very tough in training.

"There he showed also that he likes to win. And when that's going on that's when [players] are easy to manage.

"We had a beautiful time if you see the records of that time, so there was not a lot of a fuss going on. We had in '86 to '89, we had the championship, we had the cups and we had the European Cup so there is not a lot of arguing going on when you have these successes.''

Koeman was Hiddink's assistant with Holland in 1997-98, now the two meet as Premier League managers when Chelsea face Southampton at the weekend.

For all of his fondness of Koeman, Saturday's fixture at St Mary's could be a tricky one for Hiddink.

Since his return to Chelsea in December, Hiddink has overseen only one defeat amid a considerable improvement, but Southampton have won five of their past six games to take them into contention for qualification for the Champions League and, largely due to the return to fitness of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster, not conceded once.

"They have become a stable team and here you can see what Ronald has done in recent times,'' said Hiddink, who remains without captain John Terry and Alexandre Pato because of a lack of match fitness and Kurt Zouma and Radamel Falcao because of injury.

"Of course there was a little setback, a month or a few months ago, but they retained their calmness and restored the confidence. They have the players who can be decisive.

"They are close [to the top four]. It's a huge achievement because I know Erwin as well and they make the club very stable. Hopefully they have to wait a week [until after playing Chelsea] but I encourage them.''


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