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PREMIER LEAGUE: I return to Chelsea a fan: Mourinho

AFP, LONDON

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, right, celebrates with midfielder Frank Lampard after his side’s victory over Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 second-leg match at Stamford Bridge in London, England, on March 8, 2005.

Photo: Reuters

Jose Mourinho said he was returning to Chelsea with the passion of a supporter after being appointed manager of the Premier League heavyweights for a second time on Monday.

The 50-year-old Portuguese, who led the club to unprecedented success between 2004 and 2007, succeeds interim coach Rafael Benitez and has signed a four-year contract.

His Stamford Bridge comeback was one of the worst-kept secrets in European soccer, with weeks of media speculation culminating in his admission on Spanish television late on Sunday that he had agreed to move back to west London.

In an interview with Chelsea TV, the club’s in-house television channel, Mourinho said his time at the club had left a deep impression that had endured throughout his subsequent tenures at Inter and Real Madrid.

“It is exactly the same message, but now I can say I am one of you [a supporter] and that makes a little bit of a difference,” Mourinho said. “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. 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, but with the difference we have [now], which is I am one of you.”

“It was an easy decision. I met the boss, I met the owner [Roman Abramovich], and in five minutes, after a couple of very short, but pragmatic questions, we decided straight away,” he added.

Announcing the news of Mourinho’s reappointment, Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay heralded his “success, drive and ambition,” and said he was the “outstanding candidate.”

It is almost six years since Mourinho left Chelsea, under something of a cloud, in September 2007, but he said he had no qualms about returning.

“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, 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,” he said. “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.”

Mourinho arrives from Madrid, where an initially fruitful three-year spell ended in acrimony following an unsuccessful league title defense, a semi-final exit in the UEFA Champions League and the alienation of senior players, including goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

He has enjoyed success everywhere else, though, lifting the European Cup with both Porto and Inter, and leading the Italian club to an unprecedented sweep of Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League in 2009-2010.

With Chelsea, he won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, as well as two League Cups and the 2006-2007 FA Cup, before leaving after his relationship with Abramovich broke down.

“He’s a great manager,” midfielder Frank Lampard, a survivor of Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge, told BBC Sport. “He took my game on a million miles and my personality in terms of football on a million miles.”

Popularly referred to as the Special One, in reference to a brash remark from his very first Chelsea press conference, Mourinho is an outspoken figure who has became renowned for his clashes with officials and opposition coaches.

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