Jose Mourinho tasked with reviving Chelsea again

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Soccer's self-proclaimed Special One is just days away from returning to the place where he coined the nickname.

Jose Mourinho announced Monday that his three-year stint in charge of Real Madrid will come to an end following a season in which his relationship with the club collapsed irretrievably.

The eternal merry-go-round of the beautiful game is such that leading lights never stay unemployed for long however, and according to multiple reports in the United Kingdom and independent inquiries by Yahoo! Sports, Mourinho will return to former club Chelsea long before the start of next season.

And so the soap opera, one that ran for three remarkable years between 2004 and 2007, can recommence.

Mourinho does indeed have "special" coaching abilities, but his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich became so fractured towards the end of his first tenure there that even having won the club's first two league titles in half a century could not spare him the sack.

Yet Abramovich has learned from experience, through a blow to both his pride and his pocket, that replacing Mourinho was nowhere near as simple as he thought when he pulled the trigger in the winter of 2007.

Having gone through seven managers in six years, and with Mourinho's legacy at Madrid crumbling alongside his uneasy peace with the directors, a common desire to reunite the marriage grew steadily over the past two seasons.

Yet there were logistical and financial reasons why it was implausible, until now.

Having absorbed a $20 million compensation hit when luring Andre Villas Boas – then regarded as the "next Mourinho" – from Porto, only to sack him after less than a year, Abramovich has vowed to never again pay an inflated transfer sum for a coach.

For as long as Mourinho was under contract with Madrid, that stumbling block would remain in place.

Yet Monday's revelation, which suits both club and coach, confirmed that no compensation will be payable on either side, meaning Chelsea can pick up their man for no cost other than the veritable salary of around $12 million per year he will command.

"No one has been sacked,” said Madrid president Florentino Perez. "It is a mutual agreement.”

In truth, the agreement saved Madrid from firing Mourinho and having to pay out his contract. The Spanish club will now turn to Carlo Ancelotti as it tries to claim back the Spanish league title from Barcelona and improve upon three straight Champions League semifinals.

Ancelotti walked out on French club Paris St-Germain last weekend and is expected to be appointed at Madrid once contractual details have been sorted out.

The movements and machinations surroundings soccer's top managerial jobs often have an incestuous nature to them, and this week's developments are no different. Ancelotti knows that Mourinho is stepping back into a volatile situation, having himself been fired as Chelsea boss in May 2011, despite delivering the EPL title.

There is a growing sense that this may be Abramovich's last and best chance of finding managerial stability. In reality, he probably had the right man to begin with, but allowed Mourinho to slip away the first time over an argument that now seems pathetically trivial.

In 2006 and into 2007, Abramovich wanted his friend, Ukrainian superstar Andriy Shevchenko, to be a pivotal part of Mourinho's starting line-up. Mourinho not only believed Shevchenko was past his prime, but he was not prepared to have team selections dictated by an owner with no practical soccer experience, whatever his wealth.

The dispute created cracks in the relationship, their mutual stubbornness did the rest, and Mourinho departed boasting a record of 124 wins from 185 games in charge.

He would go on to lift the Champions League title with Inter Milan, perhaps his most extraordinary performance given the relative quality of the side, before heading on to Madrid. Chelsea, meanwhile, has stumbled from one boss to the next and never found an adequate replacement.

Its Champions League triumph last season was as dramatic as it was unexpected, but this season's crash landing was painful and put an end to any notion the club was legitimately among Europe's very best.

A group stage exit from the Champions League saw Roberto Di Matteo become the club's latest manager to be fired, while victory in second-tier European competition the Europa League could not take the disappointment out of a third-place English Premier League finish, well adrift from champions Manchester United.

Much more will be expected now that Mourinho is coming back, and the EPL is now faced with the intriguing situation whereby each of the top three finishers will begin the new campaign with fresh faces in charge.

Sir Alex Ferguson's timeless reign at Manchester United closed with an EPL title and retirement, with former Everton chief David Moyes already announced as his successor, while Roberto Mancini's failure to win the championship for a second straight year or contend in Europe cost him his job at Manchester City.

Abramovich has committed to a sizeable summer spending spree to help rebuild his squad, and Mourinho will no have no excuses if he is unable to rekindle the old magic.

But whether he is successful or not, whether you love him or hate him, the EPL is a more interesting place now the Special One has returned.

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