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Alex shows true worth under Guus Hiddink
Published : 19 Apr 2009 18:23:10
But it was the defender, Alex, whom he chose to praise. 'When you see the work of Alex who was, I think, a little bit underestimated in the recent period here, but he is of tremendous value to the team. It is not so obvious or clear but he's doing a great job,' Hiddink said. Such is Alex's importance to Hiddink that he kept Ricardo Carvalho out of the team and held it together, just as he had done against Liverpool in that amazing Champions League quarter-final when he also scored one of his trademark thunderbolt free-kicks to help swing the tie. At Wembley he would have been expected to miss out but didn't. The notion of a fit Carvalho not featuring for Chelsea would have been impossible to imagine not so long ago. But such is Alex's form. Hiddink is the first Chelsea manager to appreciate Alex which is not so surprising given he knew the player well from his days at PSV Eindhoven. But Alex was an unwitting pawn in the turf war that eventually forced Jose Mourinho out of Stamford Bridge – the Portuguese even labelled Alex fat and slow when he was offered him as a solution to Chelsea's defensive crisis. Mourinho preferred bidding for Standard Liege's Oguchi Onyewu, available for £1m or Deportivo La Coruna's rather more expensive Jorge Andrade. He didn't want Alex, who was championed by Mourinho's nemesis, Chelsea's chief scout Frank Arnesen. And maybe that was why. Even the ownership of the player was muddled – with Alex 'parked' at PSV by Roman Abramovich before finally arriving at Chelsea. But then neither Avram Grant nor, equally surprisingly, given he is a fellow Brazilian, Luiz Felipe Scolari, appeared to rate him either. It meant that Alex looked to leave and always looked out of place. Whatever the rights and wrongs of his arrival at Chelsea, and there remains something not quite right about how that came about, he has certainly been under-appreciated. Quicker – and leaner – than Mourinho gave him credit for his reading of the game has also been impressive. As Hiddink terms it he 'smells' danger and deals with it. And he can chip in with the odd remarkable goal. An imposing figure he seems built for the Premier League. And has become increasingly influential for Chelsea. Maybe, right now, their most important defender.