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Hiddink waits in Pool wings

HE hasn't gone away! Guus Hiddink is now looming large as a likely replacement for Rafa Benitez on the day after Liverpool co-owner Goerge Gillett gave his manager the dreaded vote of confidence.

While Gillett was giving Benitez has personal backing and lauding him as one of the top five managers in the world, Hiddink's agent dropped a cat among the pigeons by claiming he has been contacted by Liverpool.

"I have spoken with representatives of four clubs and five national federations," said Cees van Nieuwenhuizen. "Almost all of the options have previously been mentioned in the press -- Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus, etc.

"However, as I have repeatedly said, we have not held talks with anyone. To all we have said that there must first be talks with the new president of the Russian FA and to know his position on the future."

Van Nieuwenhuizen was quick to underline the fact that Hiddink cannot start work at a new club until August at the earliest but he admitted that a move to Liverpool could interest his client.

"It would be fair to say because it's one of the big names in global football," he said. "But if Liverpool have a problem today or tomorrow then Guus is not available. Guus is not available for any club until August 1.

"As Guus said after he left Chelsea, he enjoyed every second of being in the Premier League with Chelsea. He still has a very strong relationship with Mr Abramovich."

Benitez has every reason to ask some pointed questions of his American owners, particularly when Gillett had this to say shortly before Liverpool won a morale boosting victory over Spurs at Anfield last night.

"If you were to put a list together of the top five managers in the world, he'd be on it. Rafa's been tossed a curveball by circumstance, injuries and so forth, which has been a real challenge.

"He's had to make some innovations and play some players out of position. But they've generally played with a lot of passion. We've got a great group of young men."