Chelsea captain John Terry was near “unapproachable” during his injury-enforced absence and is as motivated as ever, according to Guus Hiddink.
Terry has missed 10 of the last 12 matches with a hamstring and then an Achilles problem but is poised to return in Monday’s Premier League clash with Tottenham – a clash the visitors must win to keep their hopes of taking Chelsea’s title alive.
The 35-year-old defender could be in his final days as a Chelsea player, as incoming head coach Antonio Conte is still to determine whether or not the skipper will receive a one-year contract extension, with his current deal to expire this summer.
“He was almost unapproachable when he got his physical set-back,” Hiddink said.
“He’s not a player who says, ‘Okay, it’s the end of my career, or maybe I have one or two years more’.
“The desire is there, and you see it in training sessions as well.
“He’s always motivated. I never had one training session with him – even in my previous spell (in 2009) with different players – where I said, ‘Hey, John, today you were not there’. He was always there.
“In training he’s tackling (the same) whether it’s one day before the game or one or two days after the game. I have to put the brake on a bit, which means the desire is still high.”
That is not something which can be imposed upon a player, Hiddink says.
The Dutchman added: “You must have the deep down fire in your body, in your soul.”
Terry played every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League title-winning campaign last season, but was substituted by Jose Mourinho for the first time at Manchester City in the second game of this term.
But Hiddink traces his major disappointments this season to when Terry was unavailable, for the Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain and the FA Cup quarter-final loss at Everton, when the defender returned from a hamstring problem as a late substitute.
“That was a bit of the problem and I don’t like to complain a lot, mustn’t grumble,” Hiddink said.
“But at the time we went out of the FA Cup and Champions League we had a bit lack of players also in central defence.
“(Kurt) Zouma had fallen away (with a season-ending knee injury) and John, so we had to reshuffle a lot which makes the team less secure.”