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By ESPN Staff

Chopper backs Hiddink for Chelsea role

Chelsea legend Ron 'Chopper' Harris believes Avram Grant's departure from Stamford Bridge was inevitable and has tipped Guus Hiddink to be the favourite to take over.

Grant's four-year contract was terminated after just eight months on Saturday following the club's first trophyless season since 2004.

The 52-year-old Israeli, who replaced Jose Mourinho last September, guided Chelsea to their first Champions League final, the League Cup final and to second place in the Premier League.

But the penalty shoot-out defeat in Moscow paved the way for his departure although Harris admitted he may have lost his job irrpective of the result at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

'Even if he had won the Champions League I am not convinced if he would have remained in charge but after they lost I think there was only ever going to be one outcome,' Harris said.

'Perhaps there was an inevitability about his departure from the club but it is interesting that there is now a lot of sympathy for him.

'I think his achievements should be put into context - he took Chelsea to two finals, finished second in the Premier League.

'They were only one penalty kick away from winning the Champions League and at most other clubs - the European Cup final in particular - would have been considered a success.

'But I guess the stakes are so high at Chelsea right now so there is a pressure to deliver trophies and unfortunately for Avram he has been unable to do that.'

Former captain Harris, who made 795 competitive appearances for the west London club from 1961 to 1980, expects current Russia boss Hiddink to be at the top of the shortlist to replace Grant.

The Dutchman is a close friend of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich - who is paying his salary to manage Russia - and among the best tacticians in world football.

Although Hiddink has previously dismissed speculation linking him to the Chelsea job but he has not signed a new deal with the Russian federation.

Harris, 63, said: 'Guus Hiddink is certainly one manager I think would definitely be in the frame for the job.

'He has proven his ability at the top level all round the world at club and international level and would be a name to satisfy the fans.

'It wouldn't surprise me if Sven-Goran Eriksson was also in the running. He obviously was close to becoming manager before.

'Whoever it is will be backed with plenty of money and I expect Chelsea to spend big again this summer as they attempt to catch Manchester United.'

Also believed to be in the frame are former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard and Inter Milan's Roberto Mancini but former Blues boss Mourinho remains unlikely to return.


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