The glint in the eye of Chelsea target Guus Hiddink said it all as he reminisced on his "beautiful time” at Stamford Bridge - and that was nearly seven weeks ago when Jose Mourinho still had a chance to turn things around.
In an exclusive interview with The World Game, the 69 year-old Dutchman was quizzed over his three-month stint in 2009, where he led Chelsea to FA Cup triumph, and whether he would be interested in a second coming should Mourinho be sacked.
Though reluctant to speculate on a job which, at that stage, was not available, Hiddink fondly recalled his London posting and said: "I had beautiful time at Chelsea with qualifying for the Champions League and winning the FA Cup.
"It was a short time but there were so many things look back on ... I enjoyed very much working with those guys, these are memories you always cherish."
On leaving the Bridge to resume his main job with the Russia national team, Hiddink departed with a ringing endorsement from the Chelsea faithful while the appreciative players bestowed upon him an engraved watch with the inscription “please don’t go”.
A return to west London for the man who forever has a place in the hearts of Socceroos’ fans after leading Australia to the knockout stage of the 2006 FIFA Word Cup, appears all but a formality now, with Hiddink revealing his “hunger” to coach again.
Sitting in his lavish home in the heart of Amsterdam, surrounded by memorabilia including a signed shirt from his time at Chelsea, Hiddink refused to let the sour after-taste of his exit from a faltering and flailing Netherlands national team in June dilute his enthusiasm for what appears more a vocation than a job.
“The love of football is the main thing … it’s still my passion and it’s something that will always be a part of me. That's why you continue and don't want to stop," Hiddink said.
“I’ve had some possibilities to consider (since June) but after leaving the Dutch team I have just wanted some time off to reflect and refresh."
One of those possibilities was to coach Saudi Arabia, but Hiddink, well aware of Mourinho's precarious position, even then, seemed content to wait, secure in the knowledge that the Blues overlord Roman Abramovich, who feels indebted to him for 2009, was only a phone call away.
“I don’t know what the future holds. It depends on the club or the country and it's difficult to predict but I must feel the challenge to take another position,” he said.
Asked about Chelsea, he replied: "That's an if question and I don't answer those."
With Mourinho leaving the ailing champions just one point off the drop zone after losing nine of their 16 Premier League matches this season, Hiddink's second spell will be far more fraught than the first.
A renowned man manager, he will be well placed to channel the anger the squad felt towards the posturing and grandstanding Mourinho into the more positive pursuit of much needed points.
There are those who think Hiddink belongs to a bygone era, with former Netherlands international Ronald de Boer calling hs methods "outdated" after his departure from the Oranje just five games into their doomed campaign for qualify for Euro 2016.
But Abramovich has sepia-tinted recollections of Hiddink’s galvanising and unifying influence six years ago, and seems convinced he's the right man for a rescue mission.
Ironically, Hiddink’s long-time partner, Liesbeth Pinas, had urged him not to leave London in 2009 after initially asking him not to accept the Chelsea job first time around.
“Of all the cities I have worked in around the world, she says London as the best and most exciting,” Hiddink said. "I think she would go back there tomorrow."
It looks, then, like Hiddink won't be the only one in his household happy to head back to the Bridge if, as expected, he is anointed Chelsea's caretaker manager until the end of the season.