Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink likes to see his players on the edge and says the club “needed a bit more rugby” after replacing Jose Mourinho in December.
Hiddink was lauding the effect training in other sports can have on a squad after the former judo yellow-belt saw fellow Dutchman and judo enthusiast Louis van Gaal go to ground during Manchester United’s win over Arsenal on Sunday.
The United boss hit the deck with a dive as he remonstrated with fourth official Mike Dean over an on-field decision – and Hiddink said his compatriot’s history in judo would have helped him land unhurt.
“I saw it, you could see he had been educated also by his physical teacher, he is practising judo also by the way he fell down,” Hiddink said.
“It wasn’t very fluently the way he went down. I also had some judo so I’m able to do so as well.”
While Hiddink said he could have executed a similar fall, he insisted he would never follow his managerial rival in doing so – but did praise the effect judo training can have on a footballer – revealing he felt his Chelsea side were too much of a soft touch on his return as interim manager.
Asked if he still did any judo move, the 69-year-old replied: “No, but boxing with my partner! She wins. I’m not joking. You know at the end women are strong.
“I make a combination of handball and rugby, for warming up (his players). Because in rugby – I love to see rugby also – you are entitled, when one has the ball, to grab and make a wrestling move.
“Not punching them. It’s also mental part. If they are going into a fight, within the rules, transferred to football, you can gain a lot from other sports including rugby.”
When he was questioned on the strength of his Chelsea squad when he returned for his second spell, he said: “It needed a bit more rugby.
“We installed it at my team with PSV as well, with the youngsters’ education in the academy. We encouraged, we installed and we organised wrestling, because you need it when you are on the pitch.
“I don’t say you must be a wrestler on the pitch, but you have this physical contact. And if you do those exercises, you get very well the feeling of balance, how you can fight in duels. That is very important.”
Hiddink saw a training ground bust-up between Diego Costa and Oscar not long after his arrival – but given his background he was never worried it would affect the morale of his players.
“Yes, with respect,” he said when asked if he liked his players fighting.
“In the same second they knew, because they are friends, that they were threatening each other, and deep down asked ‘what are we doing?’
“I like when they go on the edge. Not fighting but resistance. The best players in the league are also strong players, you feel that. There are a lot of benefits to gather when you are well equipped with your balance and your physical fitness.”
“It’s not always you have to be a big, big guy but when I see for instance, you see it often in the defensive part of the game.
“For instance Willian is not a big guy but is fighting into duels defensively as well. He’s smart to do so and willing to do so. That’s the modern footballer.”
Hiddink will next be sending out his fighters at out-of-form Norwich on Tuesday night but will be without the injured John Terry and Pedro as hamstring problems keep both in the treatment room.