Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink expects John Terry to be fully committed to the cause, irrespective of whether or not a contract offer is forthcoming from the Premier League champions.
The Chelsea skipper on Sunday night revealed he would be leaving Stamford Bridge after the club opted not to renew his contract.
Terry said the incoming manager may be able to reverse the decision, while Chelsea suggested a contract offer could be forthcoming and “the channels of dialogue (remained) open” – something Hiddink repeated on Tuesday.
“It was a bit surprising, but he’s completely entitled to do so when his contract is expiring,” said Hiddink, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League clash at Watford.
“I like him very much, the way he is playing and committed to the team – and he will be, I can assure you of that.
“I had some conversations with him in the past days about all kinds of things in football.
“Regardless the situation of the club and he is in now, he will be not just be professional, but with all his heart as well.”
In making the club’s stance public, Terry effectively issued a come-and-get-me-plea to the cash-rich clubs in Major League Soccer, China and elsewhere and it would now take a remarkable U-turn for him to stay at Stamford Bridge for a 19th season.
Terry, who says he intends to leave the Premier League, is already free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club and may do so before a permanent successor to Jose Mourinho is appointed.
Hiddink says Terry, who turned 35 last December and has made 696 appearances for the Blues, is still capable of performing at the top level.
The Dutchman added: “He’s very fit. He’s not what you would normally see a 35-year-old, 36-year-old player, that you feel that you get a little bit slower, you cannot accept that you’re getting into a danger zone for red cards.
“None of that for John. He’s fit and he’s performing as he’s doing while I’m here and he will do. I’m convinced.
“The door is not shut. Dialogue is always possible. There was no specific decision made yet. It’s early.
“We have to see in the progress reports and what’s coming up in the transition of the management.”
Hiddink declined to answer whether Chelsea were protecting the incoming manager from a difficult decision or whether he could see Terry playing for Chelsea next season.
He was asked about decisions to give Branislav Ivanovic a new contract, to sell Ramires and to sign Matt Miazga, when no new manager is in place, and why those were different to Terry’s situation.
“You have to see every issue as an individual case,” Hiddink said.
Chelsea said Hiddink had answered questions on Terry in as full terms as he could, emphasised the door was still open over a new contract and that any further discussions would be held in private.
High on Chelsea’s future agenda will be the appointment of a new manager.
It will not be Pep Guardiola, after Monday’s announcement he will be joining Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini, the City incumbent, is the latest to be linked to the Blues and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
“That’s up to Chelsea to decide,” Hiddink said of the prospect of the Chilean moving to Stamford Bridge.
“What I think of him – not meeting him or not talking to him – I admire his approach of football, of the game, his team.
“A well-balanced manager and I respect him.”
Chelsea drew 2-2 with Watford in Hiddink’s first match in charge and the Dutchman expects a difficult game at Vicarage Road.
“They have a very dangerous team. They can score at any moment,” Hiddink said.
“The strikers are very dangerous and they have a very well-organised team around them.”
Willian (bruised foot) is expected to be fit to feature, but Loic Remy (calf) and Radamel Falcao (thigh) are still out.
New signings Alexandre Pato and Miazga will be given time before being included in the squad.