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Just Imagine

How Guus Hiddink works his football magic

  • Story Highlights
  • Born in 1946, Hiddink has become one of the best managers in the world
  • Dutchman has enjoyed huge success at club and international level
  • He's currently coach of Russia and is in charge of Chelsea until end of May
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By Neale Graham
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- How does a man from an unassuming Dutch village go to being loved in South Korea, adored in Australia, revered in Russia and admired in England?

Guus Hiddink

Guus Hiddink, the Russia and Chelsea coach, has had much to smile about in his 22-year managerial career.

By being an exceptional football manager, for one.

Enjoying success around the world -- at different levels with different players in different cultures -- has made Guus Hiddink one of the most admired bosses around.

Born in rural Varsseveld, near the German border, in 1946, Hiddink's early years were unremarkable. While playing semi-professional football, he spent 10 years as a gym teacher at a school for children with learning difficulties.

Most of his playing days were in the midfield of De Graafschap, a smallish club with no history of winning silverware. He later spent two years playing in America before returning to retire at De Graafschap.

Video Watch CNN's exclusive interview with Hiddink »

Little, then, to suggest that here was a man who would achieve so much in his later career. But great players seldom become great managers.

His first steps in that direction came at De Graafschap, Holland, where he was assistant manager before moving to the same role at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. Photo See key moments from Hiddink's career »

By 1987, at the age of 40, he was in charge of PSV and led them to their 1988 European Cup win, a feat unthinkable today. He almost reached the final again in 2005 during his second spell in Eindhoven.

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Hiddink's keeper at PSV, Hans van Breukelen, revealed some of the manager's methods. "He's very interested in people and immediately tries to create a family environment," he told Britain's Sun newspaper.

"I can vividly remember him smoking and having a cup of coffee with his players. I don't know if he still smokes, but he was a chain smoker at PSV."

Hiddink's resume includes stints in other high-pressure jobs such as Fenerbahce, Valencia and Real Madrid, but it's on the international scene where his shrewd tactical mind, organizational skills and motivational prowess grabbed attention.

Semifinalists with Holland at the 1998 World Cup, he took over South Korea in 2001 and led the co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup to the last four. No Asian country had ever gone as far in a World Cup before and he left the job a national hero.

He agreed to coach another underdog in the shape of Australia in 2005 and led them to the 2006 World Cup. There, the Socceroos had eventual winners Italy rattled for much of their second-round match before succumbing to a late, controversial penalty.

Hiddink took Russia to Euro 2008, where they were beaten by Spain at the semifinal stage.

Naturally his hometown Varsseveld wanted to capitalize on Hiddink's huge global popularity. The "Guuseum" was built in his honor, which for a time was particularly popular with South Koreans on a pilgrimage to see from where their idol hailed.

Chelsea were in the doldrums when he arrived on a short-term deal in January as a favor to his comrade, Roman Abramovich, the club's billionaire owner.

And the Hiddink magic has worked again, giving the Blues direction to a season that was drifting under previous boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.

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But the straight-speaking Dutchman is loyal to the project he has in charge of the Russian national side and insists he will leave Chelsea at the end of the season regardless.

Sure of himself but free of ego, Hiddink knows what he wants. And, as he's repeatedly proved, he knows how to get it too.

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