Football

Blues close in on Hiddink

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Chelsea were on the brink of appointing Guus Hiddink as their new manager on Tuesday afternoon after being granted permission by his Russian employers to open talks with the Dutchman.

Hiddink has emerged as Chelsea's number one target to lead the team on a short-term basis, and if the former PSV Eindhoven coach accepts the job he will sign a contract until the end of the season.

The ex Holland chief will remain as manager of Russia as he is determined to lead the nation into the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Chelsea said in a statement: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm we have officially approached the Russian Football Union (RFU) for permission to speak to Guus Hiddink to become the club's temporary coach until the end of the season while continuing to be in charge of the Russian national team.

"That permission has been granted and Chelsea would like to thank the RFU for their co-operation."

Hiddink was contacted by the Barclays Premier League club after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked on Monday.

The former Real Madrid boss stressed there was no way he would be quitting Russia but as the nation have just two World Cup qualifiers between now and the end of the season - Azerbaijan at home at the end of March and Liechtenstein away on April 1 - the Dutchman feels confident he can combine both roles.

Hiddink has previous experience of such a position when he coached Australia and PSV Eindhoven simultaneously.

If Chelsea cannot get Hiddink in place before the weekend, they are happy for assistant coach Ray Wilkins and his team to take charge of their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Watford at Vicarage Road.

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