Hiddink to leave as Russia coach

February 13, 2010

Guus Hiddink will leave as coach of Russia's national team when his contract expires on June 30, raising the prospect of him taking a job, with a number of suitors at club and national level.

Former Socceroos mentor Hiddink guided Russia to the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championships but the team fell short of qualifying for this year's World Cup.

Hiddink wrote in a Dutch newspaper column that he had spoken with new Russian federation president Sergei Fursenko.

"It was decided that we will part ways after the expiration of my contract on June 30," Hiddink said.

"We decided this now in order to give the federation enough time to look for a successor," he wrote in De Telegraaf.

The Russian Football Union said the move was Hiddink's decision.

"Guus Hiddink took this difficult decision independently, and we are respectful of his choice," it said in a Web site statement, confirming the 63-year-old Dutchman will see his contract through.

Hiddink garnered praise among Russia's success-starved football fans for making the national side, so often a target for humour, difficult to beat.

However, hopes of further progress were dashed by a surprise defeat to Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup qualifying playoffs in November.

Hiddink did not mention future plans but has been linked with major clubs in Europe and even with taking up a job at short notice coaching one of the teams at the World Cup.

Hiddink was reportedly in the running for jobs at Juventus and Liverpool, while he also has close links to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and coached the team on an interim basis last season, winning England's FA Cup.

There had also been reports that Hiddink was being lined up by Nigeria to lead the team at the World Cup.

He has previously coached clubs such as Real Madrid and PSV Eindhoven, and national teams including the Netherlands, South Korea and Australia.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said earlier this week - before Hiddink announced he would not renew his contract - that the country needed a homegrown coach. Mutko's main achievement in his previous job as head of the Russian Football Union was landing Hiddink in April 2006.