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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK

Europe calls Hiddink home

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online's man in Korea

One of South Korea's favourite football anthems is Arirang, a love song to someone so cherished it hurts.

The final lines translate roughly as: "If you ever leave me, you will have to walk so far your feet will hurt."

Right now, Guus Hiddink has undoubtedly got itchy feet.

Hiddink's 18-month contract as South Korea manager is due for renewal on 1 July.

" I don't know what the future brings but I like to be working on the pitch every day with players "
Guus Hiddink

Almost certainly, it will not be renewed.

The fans want him to stay. So much it hurts.

The Korean Football Association say they want him to stay, though there is a theory among some fans that they are happy to sever their ties and allow a new man to build on Hiddink's foundations.

The players clearly want him to stay. They celebrated the team's achievements by hurling the coach into the air and catching him in the centre circle.

But they are all resigned to their coach leaving.

As the crowd chanted "Hiddink Guus, Hiddink Guus," the Dutchman took a bow which appeared to say "thank you and goodbye".

After his team's game against Turkey a tight-lipped Hiddink said: "Nothing is definite or settled yet."

But he admitted that he wants to return to club management.

"I don't know what the future brings but I like to be working on the pitch every day with players.

"That's why I am considering my future."

It would seem that Hiddink's work in Korea is done.

New challenge

In 18 months, he has transformed South Korea from a team of misfits to a side that got so close to the World Cup they could almost touch it.

But he is ready for a new challenge and for someone else to take on his blueprint.

So what now for Hiddink? And what now for South Korea?

The coach looks likely to return to Europe.

It is the 'long walk' the Ayemang song fears.

PSV Eindhoven have been strongly rumoured to be his new club, but there is a theory that the Dutch national job may have his name on it again after Holland's failure to qualify for this World Cup.

And then there is Leeds United.

Timing, in these things, is often everything.

David O'Leary's sacking came just days before Hiddink's own contract expired and he would surely be tempted by the challenge.

He was installed as third favourite for the job, but has said that he has not been contacted by the Premiership club.

"I have had no approach from Leeds United," admitted Hiddink after his team's 3-2 defeat on Saturday.

Korean fans will wish him farewell and good luck wherever he goes, but there is one fear that remains with them.

The rumours that Hiddink has been lined up to take over from Phillipe Troussier with arch rivals Japan are doing the rounds.

That is unlikely - and would ruin everything for the Koreans.

As for the Korean team, striker Hwang Sun Hong has retired and the new coach will have a burgeoning harvest of young talent coming through to fill the remaining ageing gaps in the side.

If Hiddink does leave, it is not clear who will replace him.

Most fans are desperate for another foreign coach to continue the Hiddink legacy.

Hiddink has introduced European ethics to Asian talent and the recipe has been mouth-watering.

His replacement, Korean or foreign, would be strongly advised to keep his blueprint in tact.

But 'Hiddink Guus' will be a hard act to follow.

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