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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In a First, Russia's Soccer Will Be in Dutch Hands

ReutersHiddink holding the trophy after a PSV Eindhoven victory at home Sunday.
Dutch coach Guus Hiddink will be the first foreigner to take charge of the Russian national football team.

Hiddink is finalizing a contract with the Russian Football Union. "We are working out the minor details of the contract, and when that is finished I will join them," Hiddink said on the Dutch television program Holland Sport TV late Monday.

The 59-year-old is concurrently manager for Dutch top division side PSV Eindhoven -- which secured its national championship on Sunday -- and the Socceroos, Australia's national team. The Australians qualified in November for the World Cup finals for the first time in 32 years, after beating Uruguay in a playoff.

Hiddink, who said he would quit the Dutch team at the end of the current season, will join Russia after the monthlong World Cup, which ended June 9.

Russia has been without a national team coach since November, when current Dynamo Moscow coach Yury Syomin resigned after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup.

That was the latest episode in a disappointing era for Russia, which exited after the first round of the last World Cup in Japan and South Korea and failed to qualify for the previous competition eight years ago in France.

It is unclear exactly how much Hiddink will be paid, but RFU chief Vitaly Mutko said in January that the new coach would receive between $2 million and $5 million per year.

The parties were hammering out a two-year deal, with the possibility of a two-year extension, Reuters reported.

But officials at the RFU were remaining tight-lipped Tuesday about Hiddink's appointment.

"So far the signatures have not been placed on the contracts. To talk of a final decision is foolish," Mutko said Tuesday on Ekho Moskvy radio.

"We are not commenting on the current course [of negotiations] during the working process," RFU press attache Igor Vladimirov said by telephone on Tuesday.

An official announcement is expected in the next week or so.

The controversy that surrounded Sweden's Sven-Goran Eriksson's appointment as England coach -- also that country's first foreign manager -- has not been mirrored in Russia.

"The manager's nationality doesn't matter," Dmitry Navosha, senior editor at Pro Sport magazine, said Tuesday. "What matters is to get a high-quality coach -- the higher, the better."

But Navosha added that the Russian Premier League did not have any coaches who matched Hiddink.

"I am 100 percent convinced that a coach of [Hiddink's] quality doesn't exist in Russia at the moment. This was a great decision. ... He is one the world's top 10 managers at this time," he said, lamenting the fact that Russia could never draw Jose Mourinho away from Chelsea. Mourinho is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, coaches in the world, having led the Portuguese team Porto to consecutive European trophies.

A glance at Hiddink's record during his 24 years in management reveals the kind of success that Russia has been starved of and that Mutko is so eager to tap.

During his first stint with PSV he triumphed in the European Cup, the Dutch championship and the domestic cup in a triple-winning 1988.

Since then, he has won the Dutch title with PSV six times and reached the semifinals in the last two World Cups: first coaching the Netherlands and then South Korea.

Questions faxed to Vyacheslav Fetisov, head of the Federal Agency for Physical Culture and Sport, could not be answered immediately.

Hiddink said he had held talks with Roman Abramovich, owner of English Premier League champion Chelsea, while negotiating with the RFU.

"I spoke with Abramovich, who wants to help lift the Russian national team to a higher level," said Hiddink, Reuters reported.

Hiddink would become the sixth foreigner to coach a Russian national sports team: The rugby, trampolining, and male and female volleyball teams have been led by non-Russians. The most recent foreigner named to head a Russian team is David Blatt, who holds dual citizenship from the United States and Israel and coaches the men's basketball team.

Hiddink plans to bring in Dutch assistants and appoint a domestic coach when he starts this summer. "I will form a Dutch staff but also with a Russian who knows Russian football," Hiddink said. "We have to analyze the situation and get the team afloat."

"If they finalize the deal, then Russia are very lucky to have snared Guus for the next four years just as we are extremely fortunate to have him for the next three months," John Boultbee of Football Federation Australia told Agence France Presse on Tuesday. "He is Aussie Guus rather than Russky Guus for a few months yet."