Latest Transfer Update at 17-02-2012
Hiddink: Had been linked with vacant England job
ANZHI SET TO APPOINT GUUS HIDDINK
Andre Villas-Boas' hold on the Chelsea job looked to be further strengthened on Friday after Guus Hiddink reportedly agreed to become the new manager of Anzhi Makhachkala.
The spectre of Hiddink has been hanging over Villas-Boas for three months after the Dutchman left the Turkey post following their failure to qualify for this summer's European Championship.
Speculation Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was considering sending another SOS to Hiddink intensified this week amid reports senior players at Stamford Bridge wanted their former caretaker boss to be brought in to replace the Portuguese.
But if Abramovich had planned to do that, he appears to have waited too long, following claims Hiddink had agreed a £12.5million, 18-month deal to take charge of mega-rich Russian club Anzhi.
While not confirming the news when contacted by Press Association Sport this morning, agent Cees van Nieuwenhuizen suggested he would be in a position to comment "later this afternoon".
Hiddink was Abramovich's go-to man three years ago when Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked as Chelsea boss, the Dutchman transforming the club's season and winning the FA Cup.
The Blues are in an even worse position now - fifth in the Barclays Premier League - but Villas-Boas was on Thursday adamant he retained the full backing of his billionaire boss.
That was despite admitting his Chelsea project had lost the support of some members of his squad, something that would have been a firing offence in the past.
Abramovich appears far more reluctant to bow to player power at present, seemingly acknowledging a change of personnel is needed for the club to marry its recent success with the brand of attacking football he craves.
However, Hiddink being out of the picture will not keep the wolf from the door entirely, with Villas-Boas still under real pressure to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Fabio Capello - who was strongly linked with Anzhi after quitting the England job - remains available and there are plenty of other candidates Abramovich could turn to.
The first manager fired by the Russian - Claudio Ranieri - has warned Villas-Boas he faces the same fate unless results improve, but the latter is braced for a rollercoaster end to the Barclays Premier League season.
"As tight as things are from fourth to seventh, the position in the league will change on a weekly basis," Villas-Boas said.
"It doesn't become more or less dramatic as the clubs jump from fourth to seventh - that is the reality.
"There is a minimum damage limitation, which is Champions League qualification, and that's what we have to do."
Defeat in Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Birmingham is also unthinkable and Villas-Boas will be demanding a response from Saturday's "worst performance of the season" at Everton.
He said: "Full focus will be needed and full determination, which will be the exact opposite of what happened against Everton."
Chelsea's squad should be strong enough to see off npower Championship Birmingham without talismanic duo John Terry and Didier Drogba, who are set to be held back for Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg at Napoli.
Drogba has been missed in the past eight weeks while on African Nations Cup duty, with Fernando Torres still failing to score despite starting every game.
"Didier back in contention will give further competition for Fernando and (Romelu) Lukaku," Villas-Boas said.
"For the player that he is, he is as strong as anybody."
With Drogba in fine form at the African Nations Cup, tomorrow could be Torres' last chance to keep his place for Tuesday's game.
Villas-Boas said: "It hasn't been happening for him but, as he continues to try to help the team, there will be a goal from him."
Meanwhile, Chelsea have reportedly pulled out of the race to sign Lille midfielder Eden Hazard.
The Blues had been strongly linked with a January move for the Belgian star, who was this week tipped to make a summer switch to Tottenham.