GUUS Hiddink refused to rule out a return to the Premier League after arriving on Tyneside with his Anzhi Makhachkala team.
But the Dutchman’s focused, for moment, on the Europa League – with Newcastle United standing between his side and the competition’s quarter-finals.
The two clubs meet at St James’s Park tonight after playing out a goalless draw in Moscow last week.
And Hiddink – who has been linked with a return to Chelsea, the club he managed in the latter months of the 2008-09 season – is putting thoughts of his future on hold as he plots Newcastle’s downfall.
“We’re happy to be in the last 16, and it would be a tremendous achievement for us to be in the last eight,” said Hiddink.
“If you see which teams could be playing in the last eight, that’s Champions League level.
“It’s difficult and unpredictable to say whether the teams can go all the way. We like to go step by step and not think too much ahead, but if we could make the next step, it would give a lot of prestige.
“Newcastle, I know they have also, from what I have heard, the ambition to play in the final in Amsterdam, so it will be a nice clash.
“But I cannot predict the future. If I could, I wouldn’t have been a coach.”
Hiddink’s side were beaten 2-0 by Mordovia Saransk on Sunday in what was the club’s first domestic game since December, when the Russian Premier League started its long winter break.
And his players trained at a snowy St James’s Park last night ahead of the second leg of the Round of 16 tie.
Hiddink’s pre-match press conference was dominated by talk of his future, with Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez set to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer, if not before.
Asked if he wanted to again manage in England, the 66-year-old Dutchman said: “I don’t know because I’m not the youngest anymore, although I feel still very energetic.
“I love to be on the pitch almost every day with the guys.
“There is energy left, but I never can predict my future because a big part of the future is already behind me.
“I’d like to add a little sentence to that because it does seem in my answer that I’m not having a lot of joy in my current job, which is not true, I love the job which I am doing now.
“Anzhi are coming internationally from a small club.
“Within one year, the club image has increased a lot, the seriousness within the club, and the way we are trying to play has given me also a lot of energy.”
Hiddink went on: “I enjoyed very much the Premier League, of course and in my Chelsea time, we played here (at Newcastle) and had a good result here, I remember.
“Overall, the Premier League is what every player likes to do, and also the managers and coaches, they like to work in the big leagues, of course.
“I like very much the attitude of the players I had at Chelsea in my time. I liked very much the atmosphere in the stadiums, the public who enjoy very much and respect very much the way of playing.”