Jose Mourinho, Chelsea reunite as ‘Special One’ returns

LONDON — When Jose Mourinho left Chelsea in 2007 after falling out with owner Roman Abramovich, it appeared the divorce was final.

The Special One returned to Stamford Bridge on Monday, 5 1-2 years after his departure, to the delight of Blues fans

“I had to prepare myself not to be too emotional on my arrival at the club, but obviously I am very happy,” Mourinho told Chelsea TV. “It was an easy decision. I met the boss, I met the owner, and in five minutes after a couple of very short but pragmatic questions, we decided straight away. I asked the boss: ‘Do you want me back?’ And the boss asked me: ‘Do you want to come back?’ And in a couple of minutes, the decision was made.”

The 50-year-old Portuguese coach was given a four-year contract as Chelsea manager, nine years and one day after he first was hired by the club. It was on that first day at Chelsea in 2004 that Mourinho declared himself a “Special One,” a nickname that stuck.

Mourinho’s relationship with Abramovich has improved over the years, and the unpredictable manager said their divorce back in 2007 benefited both him and the club.

“It was a difficult moment because I love it here and have a big connection with the club. Also for the club, my departure, it was not easy,” Mourinho said. “But if you analyze it in a cool way and you leave emotions a bit apart, I think it was fantastic. Because after that I had in my career what I was aiming for, and Chelsea as a football club got important trophies after that, with important moments in the history of the club. Now we are back together, and it is a great moment for both, so I think we are ready to marry again and to be happy and successful again.”

Madrid released the charismatic and fiery coach from his contract, so Abramovich will not have to pay compensation.

“I never hide that in my career in football I had two great passions, Inter and Chelsea, and Chelsea is more than important for me,” Mourinho said. “It was very hard to play against Chelsea. I did it twice, which was not so bad. Now I promise exactly the same things I promised in 2004.”

There had been seven managers at Chelsea since Mourinho left. He led Chelsea to its first league title in 50 years in 2005 and followed up with another in 2006, and won one FA Cup and two league Cups. But he fell short of giving Abramovich a Champions League trophy, which finally was won with Roberto Di Matteo as coach in 2012.

“His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate,” Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said. “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.”

Chelsea finished third in the Premier League this season and was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League after winning the title in 2012.

Rafa Benitez, hired in November as interim manager after Di Matteo was fired, was repeatedly jeered by Chelsea fans, who distrusted him following his six-year stretch with Liverpool. Benitez led Chelsea to the title of the Europa League, the continent’s second-tier tournament, and was hired last week to coach Napoli.

After leading Porto to the 2004 Champions League title, Mourinho became a popular and divisive figure when he arrived at Chelsea.

“I’m sorry I’m a bit arrogant, but we have a top manager,” he said at his initial news conference. “I am the European champion. I think I am a special one.”

After leaving Chelsea, Mourinho went on to coach Inter Milan, winning two Serie A titles, the Italian Cup and the 2010 Champions League. With Madrid, he won the 2011 Copa del Rey and 2012 Spanish league title.

He became unpopular with segments of the Madrid fan base this year, when he dropped goalkeeper Iker Casillas, captain of Madrid and of the world and European champion Spanish national team.

Chelsea said Mourinho is bringing along three members of his coaching staff, Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and Jose Morais, and each will be given the title assistant first team coach. There was no word whether Aitor Karanka, his assistant manager at Madrid, will follow him to Chelsea.

Mourinho was an unsuccessful player in the 1980s, and his big break in management came when he was hired as an interpreter for English coach Bobby Robson at Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon.

Robson took Mourinho with him to Porto and his influence increased as he took on coaching responsibilities. The duo moved to Barcelona for the 1996-97 season, and Mourinho remained at the club under Louis van Gaal following the Robson’s departure.

Mourinho returned to Portugal but failed to win any titles during stints as a senior coach at Uniao Leiria and Benfica. That changed in his first full season at Benfica’s rival, Porto, where he won the league, Portuguese Cup and UEFA Cup in 2003.

Chelsea said Mourinho will hold a news conference June 10 at Stamford Bridge.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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