Guus Hiddink is the perfect manager to restore confidence and harmony to a fractured Chelsea dressing room, according to the club’s former defender Juliano Belletti.
Hiddink, 69, was handed the reins at Stamford Bridge after Jose Mourinho departed in December, and has since arrested the Premier League champions’ slide by orchestrating a run of eight matches without defeat in all competitions.
Belletti was part of the Chelsea squad when Hiddink took charge on an interim basis in 2009, replacing the sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari before leading the team to FA Cup glory at the end of the season.
And the Brazilian has no doubt Hiddink is the ideal antidote to the toxic atmosphere that seemingly arose during the final months of Mourinho’s time in charge.
He told Omnisport: “I’ve worked with great managers like Mourinho, [Carlo] Ancelotti, Scolari, Hiddink and I could see Hiddink knows how to lead a group, he knows how to deal well with individual behaviours and that’s really hard. When the team is not doing well, the group usually splits, and players start having doubts about the system, the style of play and even about themselves.
“Guus Hiddink knows how to control that on a daily basis, during the training sessions. His experience helps him. He knows how to give confidence back to players and how to make the collective play overcome the individual one, how to get out of a difficult situation. So, I think Chelsea signed really well for this moment. But it’s not easy and it can happen with all the big clubs in the world, but it will pass,” he added, referring to the title-holders’ struggles in 2015-16.
Belletti enjoyed three successful years with Chelsea after joining from Barcelona in 2007, winning the league and FA Cup double in 2009-10 prior to a return to Brazil with Fluminense.
The 39-year-old misses being part of England’s top flight and playing with the “monsters” in the Chelsea squad at the time.
“My three years in the Premier League were great. To be a part of that competition is what I miss most about football,” he said.
“The Premier League is a fantastic championship and Chelsea welcomed me so well when I arrived. The group that we had was extraordinary, with [Claude] Makelele, (Michael) Ballack, [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry, Petr Cech, [Andriy] Shevchenko, [Didier] Drogba. They were all football’s monsters, who were respected everywhere and to be part of it was really nice.”
Club captain Terry has spoken of his desire to earn a new contract at the Bridge, with his deal due to expire at the end of the season, and Belletti says the skipper still has plenty to offer to the club.
“John Terry was one of the greatest captains I had in my career, just like [former Barcelona skipper Carles] Puyol,” he said. “He’s an extraordinary player, with a winning mentality, a great professional and I think he still has a lot to give to Chelsea.
“Every team needs a leader, but it’s not enough to have leadership, you need to have good technical performances, and I’m a big fan of his football and his character.
“I think the club needs him in this season, one which hasn’t been easy, and also to prepare a new captain when he decides to call it time on his career. But I think he still can do a lot for Chelsea.”
A 1-0 win away to Arsenal last week has put daylight between Chelsea and the relegation zone, while they are now just eight points behind the top six, and Belletti believes defeating their London rivals could give them a massive confidence boost for the rest of the season.
“It’s really good to win a derby. Chelsea’s victory against Arsenal might help give them that confidence again,” he added.
“The squad is good, they’re last year’s champions, so I don’t think it’s a matter of lacking quality. They need to rescue their confidence so that a victory doesn’t turn into a problem.
“With the number of quality players, Hiddink’s arrival and a nice win like that, the expectations are that Chelsea could do what they were doing last season. Of course, after that, the pressure will be higher but that victory helps a lot.”