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5 managers who returned to their former clubs – from Jose Mourinho to Kenny Dalglish

The old adage warns that you should never go back.

But in football, the sight of a former manager rocking up at the club for a second stint is an increasingly normal occurrence.

Even in 2021, when there are arguably more managers available to choose from than ever before, clubs are tapping into their nostalgia in an attempt to produce more cherished memories.

Carlo Ancelotti is back for a second spell at Real Madrid to succeed Zinedine Zidane. Only six years ago, it was the Italian who was booted out of the Santiago Bernabeu, with Zidane ironically the man to replace him.

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Carlo Ancelotti ended his reign at Everton to head back to Real Madrid
Carlo Ancelotti ended his reign at Everton to head back to Real Madrid

He leaves Everton after only 18 months in charge and there is understandably some outrage from Toffees fans after Ancelotti admitted he yearned for another crack with his former club.

Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly another coach in a reflective mood. The Argentine is understood to be keen on a return to Tottenham to finish the project he started, less than two years after his controversial sacking.

However, he is only six months into his tenure at Paris Saint-Germain, meaning Spurs would find it difficult to re-appoint their former boss without paying a large compensation fee, and are said to be looking at Antonio Conte instead.

Returns do not always go as smoothly as it may seem and there will be some bosses, either still in the game or now retired, wishing they had left the past untouched.

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With that in mind, Mirror Sport looks at five memorable managerial returns and what happened next…

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho won three Premier League titles across two spells at Chelsea
Jose Mourinho won three Premier League titles across two spells at Chelsea

For the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, there was nowhere else he would rather be. Indeed, he had morphed into the ‘Happy One’ after sealing a return to Chelsea.

After falling out with several senior squad members at Real Madrid and enduring a tense relationship with the Spanish press, Mourinho decided to come home in 2013.

It was a marriage of convenience: Chelsea were in need of an overhaul after their Europa League triumph, while Mourinho needed to go somewhere where he was adored.

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It didn’t take long for success to return to west London. Mourinho guided the Blues to a dominant title-winning campaign in 2014-15, spearheaded by new Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas and earned himself a new contract.

As fate would have it, it was the same three players who were accused of conspiring to get Mourinho sacked in December 2015 with Chelsea hovering dangerously above the relegation zone in 16th and he departed shortly after.

If his first departure from Stamford Bridge was acrimonious, his second spell certainly did some lasting damage. But with a third league title in the bag, Mourinho may feel his decision was justified.

Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish's 18-month spell in the Liverpool dugout produced mix results
Kenny Dalglish’s 18-month spell in the Liverpool dugout produced mix results

There is not much Sir Kenny Dalglish could do to tarnish his legacy at Liverpool.

The Scot lived the ultimate dream making over 850 appearances split between Celtic and Liverpool scoring 345 goals, in an illustrious career back in the 1960s and 70s.

Which manager do you wish never came back to your club for a second spell? Let us know in the comments section below.

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As a manager, he was hugely successful as the Merseyside club dominated English football in the 1980s, winning three Division One titles and two FA Cups.

He had kept a relatively low profile after that as an ambassador. But with the club in disarray after Roy Hodgson’s disastrous reign ended in 2011, Dalglish answered their SOS call.

There were some highlights, of course. Luis Suarez proved to be a fine addition to replace Fernando Torres and the Reds did claim the EFL Cup, albeit only winning on penalties, against Cardiff in 2011-12.

But Dalglish’s reign lasted just 18 months and when he left Liverpool, they were down in eighth place. The subsequent success of his successors Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp suggest that ‘King Kenny’ would have been best-advised to have let the phone go to voicemail.

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane left his position as Real Madrid coach in May 2021
Zinedine Zidane left his position as Real Madrid coach in May 2021

When a manager guides a club to the unprecedented feat of three successive Champions League titles, you earn the right to dictate your own future.

Zidane did just that, opting to leave Real Madrid on a high after a remarkable period of success between 2016 and 2018.

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The subsequent appointments of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari were catastrophic for Real, however, and it was no surprise when Florentino Perez pleaded for Zidane to return in 2018-19.

It was a move that reaped the benefits as Los Blancos added another Liga to their burgeoning trophy cabinet in 2019-20, before Atletico Madrid pipped them to the title on the final day this season.

Zidane had already dropped several hints over his future and it was no surprise when he resigned from his position in May. Only this time, he did not leave quietly.

Incredibly, the Frenchman wrote an open letter to the Real Madrid president Perez, accusing the club of “lacking respect” and listing the reasons of why he left.

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Madrid have since hired Carlo Ancelotti to replace Zidane to complete the most dramatic of ironies and it’s safe to say the Frenchman won’t be back for a third time if the appointment turns sour.

Jupp Heynckes

Jupp Heynckes returned to Bayern to guide them to the Treble in 2012-13
Jupp Heynckes returned to Bayern to guide them to the Treble in 2012-13

Heynckes was first hired as Bayern Munich’s manager in 1987 and they experienced two title triumphs in his four years in charge before he left for a stint in Spain with Athletic Bilbao, Tenerife and Real Madrid.

Having ended up in Germany as caretaker for Bayern in 2009 and with Bayer Leverkusen in 2011, Heynckes jumped at the chance to head back to Munich to replace Louis van Gaal. At this point, Bayern were out-of-sorts and left with an ageing squad.

Fast forward two years to Wembley and Heynckes had guided Bayern to a famous Treble, choosing to bow out of management on the back of his incredible achievement.

Heynckes could have been forgiven for leaving it untouched. But after a poor start to the 2017-18 season under Carlo Ancelotti, Heynckes was drafted in for a fourth — and final — spell in the dugout at the age of 72.

The Bavarian giants would taste success once again at the end of the campaign, capturing the Bundesliga title. Despite the club’s attempts to keep him, Heynckes made it clear he would be resuming his retirement plans.

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The German might just be the only coach on this list who can reflect on his decision to go back with zero regrets or ill feeling.

Harry Redknapp

Harry Redknapp switched between Portsmouth and Southampton
Harry Redknapp switched between Portsmouth and Southampton

It’s one thing to go back to the team where you experienced success. It’s another to do so grovelling on your hands and knees, having left for their rivals.

Harry Redknapp found himself in such a position after excelling with a popular Portsmouth side, taking them to the Premier League, but resigned in 2004 following a disagreement with owner Milan Mandaric.

The experienced boss was courted by Southampton to help stave off relegation and despite the bitter relations between South Coast clubs, Redknapp made the shock decision to head to St Mary’s.

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It left the Pompey faithful stunned and Redknapp was the target for a tide of abuse. As fate would have it, he couldn’t prevent the Saints from being relegated to the second tier and left in December 2005.

Chairman Rupert Lowe has claimed Redknapp had referred to Fratton Park as his spiritual home and he returned to the club. Needless to say, after a famous FA Cup success in 2008, it was a risk worth taking before he left to take charge of Tottenham later that year.

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