MOSCOW, July 22 (R-Sport) – Dutchman Guus Hiddink on Monday resigned as coach of wealthy Russian football team Anzhi Makhachkala after a year and a half on the job, the team said.
Hiddink, 66, leaves just two games into the new Russian Premier League season, of which Anzhi drew one and lost the other.
"This decision was not easy for me, but I've always said that my mission at Anzhi could end when the team is able to develop and continue to grow by itself, without my participation," Hiddink was quoted as saying on the Anzhi website.
"Now that time has come. I am convinced that a great future awaits the team, and I am happy that I was a part of this vast football project."
Since signing for Anzhi in February 2012, Hiddink played a key role in converting billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov's wealth into success on the pitch, combining stars such as three-time Champions League winner Samuel Eto'o with a large share of developing talent including many up-and-coming Russian players.
Hiddink took Anzhi to a team-record third-place finish in the league last season, as well as the Russian Cup final and a strong run in the Europa League.
He will be replaced by his former assistant and fellow Dutchman Rene Meuleensten, once part of Sir Alex Ferguson's coaching team at Manchester United, who only joined Anzhi on July 1.
Hiddink's agent, Kees van Nieuwenhuizen, told R-Sport that he was "surprised" at the announcement and that he had expected Hiddink to stay at least another six months.
“It was always his idea to stay on a little while," he said. "He said maybe a year, maybe half a year.”
Van Nieuwenhuizen said the two had not discussed any plans to leave Anzhi when they spoke last week: "He was disappointed about a missed penalty from Eto’o.”
The agent confirmed Meulensteen was not hired as a replacement and that relations between Hiddink and team management were not troubled.
“As far as I know, [the relationship was] very good," he said. "When he suggested Renee Meulensteen as his assistant, the team got excited and said 'We’ll try to get him.'”
Van Nieuwenhuizen said he had no idea what Hiddink would do next.
Last season, Hiddink hinted he would retire from coaching but eventually committed to another season with Anzhi at the start of last month.
"The Anzhi football team has taken the decision to accept the request of the head coach and end their employment relations," the team said in a website statement.
Chairman Konstantin Remchukov told R-Sport: "We relate with understanding to [Hiddink's] motive for leaving," adding: "He is a respected man. We are grateful to Guus. His role in the development of Anzhi and in achieving new heights is hard to overestimate, so we listened to him with understanding."
Anzhi did not think of Meulensteen as a replacement when they hired him, Remchukov said. "Renee was called in to bring Anzhi's entire training process to a new, high and world-class level," he said.
Anzhi's next game is away to Krylya Sovetov in the league on July 28. It will be the 49-year-old Meulensteen's first game in charge of a team since he left Danish side Brondby in 2007. Anzhi said Meulensteen had already been introduced to the team as their new head coach.
Hiddink's departure continues a summer of change in Anzhi's backroom staff, including the departure of former Real Madrid left-back Roberto Carlos, who held an assistant coaching role and left to work in Turkey. Roberto Carlos said he was forced to leave because the door was closed to succeeding Hiddink.
Also leaving Anzhi have been assistant coaches Ton du Chatinier and Andrei Gordeev.
Hiddink's last game in charge was a 2-1 defeat to Dynamo Moscow on Friday, in which Anzhi lost on a stoppage-time penalty from Andriy Voronin. Anzhi will also complete in the Europa League this season, starting in the group stage.
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