Guus Hiddink is to be handed the task of rescuing Chelsea’s disastrous season following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, who signed a new £10m-a-year four-year contract in August after leading Chelsea to the Premier League title last season, was informed of his dismissal at lunchtime in a 10-minute meeting with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy at the club’s Cobham training ground.
Hiddink, who led Chelsea to FA Cup success during a successful three-month spell as interim manager in 2009, will be asked to stabilise the club and guide the team through to the end of the season. His first game will be Saturday’s home match against fellow Premier League strugglers Sunderland.
Chelsea will seek a permanent appointment at the end of the season, with Italy coach Antonio Conte the favoured candidate ahead of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone.
History says ‘Lucky Guus’ should not be coming back to Chelsea
Mourinho is expected to receive a full year’s salary in compensation, but with Chelsea lying in 16th position in the league, just one point above the relegation zone, the owner Roman Abramovich finally lost patience with the club’s most successful manager in the wake of Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester City.
Chelsea confirmed Mourinho’s departure in a statement Thursday afternoon, pointedly remarking about the current squad – which has under-performed dramatically this season – “reaching its potential” following the change of management.
“Chelsea Football Club and Jose Mourinho have today parted company by mutual consent,” the statement read. “All at Chelsea thank Jose for his immense contribution since he returned as manager in the summer of 2013.
“His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history. But both Jose and the board agreed results have not been good enough this season and believe it is in the best interests of both parties to go our separate ways.
“The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea. His legacy at Stamford Bridge and in England has long been guaranteed and he will always be warmly welcomed back to Stamford Bridge. The club’s focus is now on ensuring our talented squad reaches its potential.”
Speaking to BT Sport earlier this month, Mourinho hinted at the problems within the dressing room that have contributed to his departure by admitting to being too emotional and conceding that players must want to play for him. “I give everything I have, sometimes maybe too much, too emotional,” Mourinho said. “But I do that with every club.
“Players need to like to work with me, they need to understand that I am the best manager they can work with. That is very important. Like me, don’t like me… But it’s fundamental that the manager is somebody they can look at and know that he’s good. I always establish the impossible target: to win every match. They know that is impossible and this season is proving that is really impossible.”
Cesc Fabregas became the first player to commiserate with the manager. “Thank you for all you have done for me,” Fabregas wrote on social media. “I owe you a lot and we will all miss you. Good luck in the future. You will be back soon.”