Hiring new Chelsea boss won't undermine me, insists Guus Hiddink
LONDON -- Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink insists he is not worried by the possibility of losing authority in the eyes of his players if the club announce their new permanent boss before the end of the season.
Numerous reports in Italy and England claim that Italy coach Antonio Conte will be confirmed as Chelsea manager on a three-year contract within the next 10 days, after positive talks between his representatives and the Blues hierarchy in London on Thursday.
The Italian would take over in the summer from Hiddink, who has presided over a Chelsea revival since succeeding Jose Mourinho in December. The Blues have lost just one of 13 matches in all competitions under the Dutchman and remain in contention for the Champions League and FA Cup.
News that Conte's potential appointment may be imminent has sparked fears in some quarters that the club could suffer in a similar fashion to Manchester City, who lost back-to-back Premier League matches to title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur after it was announced that Pep Guardiola would replace Manuel Pellegrini this summer. But Hiddink disputes the notion that City's players are no longer fully committed to the outgoing Pellegrini, and insists he has no fear of his squad dropping their effort levels.
"I'm responsible for the daily results until the end of the season. But the club must make plans for next year and the year after and the year after," the Dutchman told reporters on Friday. "That's why I said it's no problem for me to be transparent when [Chelsea] announce the next manager.
"The example is Manchester City. They made it very clear that Pep is coming and there were questions of 'Is Pellegrini losing authority?' No. If the players have respect for the manager even if the manager must make tough decisions against the players not to play and be fair in his treatment face-to-face with them, then there's no loss of respect.
"They lost at Stamford Bridge, yes, but they were very keen and very happy going into the next round of the Champions League [when City beat Dynamo Kiev 3-1 in Ukraine]. If there was any trouble In relation to [Pellegrini] losing authority then you would have seen a bad performance in Kiev.
"It was already clear [that Hiddink is an interim manager] before the announcement [of a new manager] whoever it will be. I also have to make decisions I don't like because I sense now that all the players desperately want to play.
"I don't like making the decision [of who plays] but I do it with fairness, so they can never [accuse] me of going behind their back or using tricks. Then I hope we can maintain a respectful relationship."
Hiddink has consistently ruled himself out of the running to be Chelsea's next permanent manager, and sources have told ESPN FC that he has never been regarded as a front-runner for the role, despite both Oscar and John Obi Mikel voicing their desire for the Dutchman to stay in recent days.
The Dutchman admits that some players may consider themselves to be playing for their futures at Chelsea under his successor, but is adamant that his players will remain focused on the trophies they can still win this season.
"Of course some might think about their futures," Hiddink confessed. "That might depend on whether their contract is expiring, yes or no, and they don't know if there's one more year to go. But I don't think the players are thinking so much ahead. They are performing for now and in the upcoming weeks.
"When you are in a big club, whether you play frequently or come in or don't play, you must feel responsibility and the urge to play for a big club. The desire must always be there. Every now and then you must think: 'My life as a professional is a terrific life.' That gives a lot of joy but also a lot of responsibility and obligations to players."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.