Chelsea have confirmed Russia coach Guus Hiddink as their new coach – with the Dutchman saying he got on board as a "personal favour" to Blues owner Roman Abramovich.
|Hiddink will take on a dual role with Russia and Chelsea [AFP]
A statement from the English Premier League club on Wednesday said Hiddink would take charge until the end of the season as Chelsea try to turn their campaign around following the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Hiddink will remain in charge of the Russian national team.
"Chelsea Football Club is delighted to confirm Guus Hiddink will become temporary coach until the end of the season," said the statement from Stamford Bridge.
"He is due to meet the players later this week.
"The club would like to take this opportunity to thank the Russian Football Union for their understanding and cooperation."
The Dutchman said on Wednesday that he would be attending Saturday's FA Cup fixture at Watford before taking charge ahead of the Premier League clash with top-of-the-table rivals Aston Villa the next weekend.
"It's never enough time to prepare a team in one week but this is an exceptional situation," said the former PSV Eindhoven and South Korea coach.
"Chelsea have good players and they should be in top form and that should make my job easier."
In a radio interview he added that his close relationship with Abramovich – the financial backer of the Russian team – had been the most important factor in his appointment.
"It's a favour for a friend," Hiddink told Radio 538 in the Netherlands.
"Abramovich does so much for Russian football that I wanted to give something back.
"He called me personally.
"I can do it because we (Russia) are only playing two matches in April and one in June, but the English league is finished then."
Assistant Ray Wilkins is coaching the team in the gap between the two managers.
Fourth not good enough
Scolari was fired on Monday after seven months in charge with Chelsea languishing in fourth place in the standings, seven points behind leaders Manchester United.
Hiddink didn't rule out staying at Chelsea permanently.
"There are two scenarios," he said.
"Either they say: 'Go back to the East' or it all goes well, and then...but that is not ideal."
He also intends to contact predecessor Scolari to discuss the team.
"I haven't done it yet but I will call him in the next day or two," said Hiddink.
He added he had not signed a contract with Chelsea nor intended to.
Not about money
"I don't have to sign one. It's not a question of money," said Hiddink.
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is considered the favourite to take over on a permanent basis next summer.
"If the position will be open in July then I think he might consider it," Milan director Umberto Gandini said.
"He did already have a chance to consider it when he was approached last summer."
Russia have two World Cup qualifying games over the course of the rest of the English league season – at home to Azerbaijan on March 28 and away to
Liechtenstein four days later.
Those dates should not conflict with Chelsea league games, and the qualifiers are matches Russia should win comfortably as they chase Germany for the top spot in Group Four.
Only the group winners are guaranteed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with the runners-up then chasing a playoff spot.
"The national team is undoubtedly a priority for the coach. There is no talking about it," Russian Football Union President Vitaly Mutko said.
"We are strictly following the contract terms. He will continue to be the chief coach of the national (team)."
As for combining the two jobs, Mutko said, "It doesn't influence the situation in Russia in any way.
"It's a common practice for the coach to come here when the team is being trained for the games, on the days of the games to support it.
"Such practice will continue."
Hiddink won domestic and European club titles with PSV Eindhoven and, at international level, led the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, South Korea to the same stage four years later and took underdogs Australia to the second round in 2006.
At Euro 2008, he guided outsiders Russia to the semi-finals.