Chelsea hired Jose Mourinho as manager on a four-year contract, bringing one of the most successful Premier League soccer coaches back for a second stint at the London club.
Mourinho, 50, replaces interim manager Rafael Benitez, who won the Europa League this year though was never accepted by Blues fans. Mourinho’s appointment comes two days after his last game in charge of Real Madrid, which he agreed to leave by mutual consent at the end of the season on May 20.
Mourinho guided Chelsea to two Premier League titles in his first three-year tenure, along with one F.A. Cup and two League Cups. He left in September 2007 after clashes with billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
The Portuguese, who described himself as a “special one” when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, is a fan favorite at the west London club. The seven managers who followed him would never gain the same allegiance from the supporters, who still sing his name during matches.
“I am delighted to welcome Jose back to Chelsea,” club Chief Executive Officer Ron Gourlay said on the team’s website. “His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate. It is our aim to keep the club moving forward to achieve greater success in the future and Jose is our No. 1 choice as we believe he is the right manager to do just that.”
Benitez was appointed as interim manager Nov. 21 after the firing of Roberto Di Matteo, who won the Champions League last year. U.K. newspaper reports said at the time that the short-term move might pave the way for the hiring of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard has since signed a contract to take over at Bayern Munich.
Benitez, who guided Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League title, was booed and jeered during his tenure by Blues fans who opposed his hiring. When he announced Feb. 27 he would leave after the season, he criticized a section of supporters who he said had an agenda against him. Benitez has since joined Italy’s Napoli on a two-season contract.
After winning its first European Cup in May 2012, Chelsea became the first titleholder eliminated in the group stage the following season. The Blues dropped into the Europa League, where they beat Benfica for the title May 15. They also finished third in the Premier League to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho left Real after a third season that he described as a failure. The record nine-time European champion didn’t win a major trophy, failing to retain its Spanish league title, losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals and getting beaten by Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.
Mourinho guided Real to the 2011-12 La Liga championship, ending a three-year streak by Barcelona, which regained the title this season with four games to spare. He also led the club to three straight Champions League semifinals.
Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.