7 Managers Who Returned to Their Former Clubs: How Did It Turn Out?

Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on prior to the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on August 19, 2016 in Manchester, England.

So, Zinedine Zidane has officially returned as Real Madrid manager, signing a deal worth a reported €15 million a year until June 2022.

Personally, I thought Ronaldo and Zidane had got out at just the right time, but it would seem that the finances, promised summer recruitments or an emotional attachment to the club, or more likely a combination of all three, has convinced Zizou to come back to the Bernabeu.

Following three perfect campaigns on a European front, winning three successive Champions League titles, there’s a real worry that Zidane could spoil his legacy at one of the world’s great football clubs.

The Frenchman isn’t the first man to return to a club he has previously managed, in fact, he isn’t even the first man to do it at Real Madrid, and the one-time favourite to get the job Jose Mourinho also would have been making a return to Los Blancos had he got the job.

Heck, former Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin has had not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR (!) separate spells in charge of Palermo. Influential Italian head coach Vittorio Pozzo had the same number of spells with the Italian national team, his last and longest stint yielding two World Cup wins. And the great Sir Matt Busby briefly returned to the helm at Manchester United in the early 1970’s, having previously led the club from 1945 to 1969.

As you can see, managers returning to their former clubs is not all that uncommon of an occurrence, so we had no trouble taking our pick of seven. We haven’t picked the seven best, most successful, longest serving or anything like that, just a random and hopefully somewhat entertaining seven of our choice.

Here are our 7 managers who returned to their former clubs: How did it turn out?

7. Jose Mourinho - Chelsea

Mentioned in the introduction since he was linked with a return to Real Madrid over the last few weeks, such a move would have been the second time Jose Mourinho had returned to a club he had previously managed during the course of his illustrious managerial career.

Following his remarkable Champions League success at Porto, Mourinho joined Chelsea for the first time in 2004. At the start of the free-spending Roman Abramovich era, Mourinho proved a big success, winning six trophies in three-and-a-bit seasons, before being axed in what many viewed as a harsh dismissal by the ruthless Russian oligarch.

More trophies followed for Mourinho at Inter Milan and Real Madrid, including a historic treble with the former, before Abramovich offered the Portuguese head coach a second bite at the cherry in the summer of 2013. It would be fair to describe Mourinho’s return to the Blues as a real ‘mixed bag’. The first season brought stability, the second brought a league and cup double and the third ended with Jose’s dismissal as the Blues languished in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

6. Harry Redknapp - Portsmouth

Jordan's latest manager Harry Redknapp speaks during a joint press conference with the president of the Jordan Football Association, Prince Ali Bin Al Hueesin ahead their World Cup...Jordan's latest manager Harry Redknapp speaks during a joint press conference with the president of the Jordan Football Association, Prince Ali Bin Al Hueesin ahead their World Cup...

Harry Redknapp has been around the block in football management, with his last two jobs taking him from Jordan to Birmingham.

What makes Redknapp’s two stints at Portsmouth worthy of inclusion here, is the fact that he managed Pompey’s bitter rivals Southampton in between. Fans at Fratton Park were outraged at the time, but the fact that Redknapp got relegated from the Premier League and failed to win promotion from the second tier before resigning at their south coast rivals probably went some way towards healing any open wounds.

Redknapp subsequently rejoined Portsmouth, kept them in the Premier League, won an unlikely FA Cup and recorded their highest league finish in 50 years. All this would made possible by some hefty transfer expenditure, and it all came crashing down after Redknapp left Fratton Park in a move to Tottenham. Portsmouth’s financial implosion saw them drop all the way down to League Two, but they’re currently fighting for a place in the Championship.

5. Fabio Capello - Real Madrid

As we mentioned in the introduction, Zinedine Zidane isn’t the first manager to have multiple spells in charge at the Bernabeu, in fact, he isn’t even the second. Alfredo di Stefano managed the club twice, firstly in the 1980’s and then briefly in the 1990’s, but the returning Real manager we focus on here is Fabio Capello.

The world class Italian boss arrived at the Bernabeu following extraordinary success at AC Milan, but he spent just a single season with the Spanish giants despite winning a La Liga title in his debut campaign. Capello returned to Italy, where he won league titles with Roma and Juventus (albeit those with Juve have since been revoked), and in 2006 he was brought back to Real Madrid.

His second spell with Los Blancos was virtually a carbon copy of his first. Capello guided the team to an unlikely La Liga title, their first major trophy since 2003, but was sacked after just a single season due to his defensive and pragmatic style of play.

4. Walter Smith - Rangers

Walter Smith, manager of Rangers with the winners trophy during the Co-operative Insurance Cup final between at Hampden Park on March 20, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland.Walter Smith, manager of Rangers with the winners trophy during the Co-operative Insurance Cup final between at Hampden Park on March 20, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Since we have a fair smattering of Scottish viewers on this channel, and both Celtic and Rangers have had high-profile managerial returns, it seemed appropriate to include one here. We’ve included Walter Smith, who only ever managed Rangers, Scotland and Everton at first team level.

The former Dundee United defender first took over at Rangers in 1991, having previously served as Graeme Souness’ assistant manager. His first spell with the club spanned seven years, yielding 13 trophies, including seven league titles, only failing to win the league in the 1997-98 campaign before Smith’s departure for Everton.

The Everton move wasn’t a success, and following spells with the Scottish national team and as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, Smith returned to Ibrox in January 2007. He would stick around for another four-and-a-half years, adding eight more trophies and reaching a UEFA Cup final. Smith is the second most successful manager in Rangers history.

3. Kenny Dalglish - Liverpool

From one Scot to another, the man we feature in third place is Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish. Arguably the greatest player to have ever donned that famous red shirt and walked out at Anfield, Dalglish was the club’s talisman as they won the European Cup three times between 1978 and 1984.

Dalglish was appointed as Liverpool’s player-manager in 1985, winning the double in his first season and three league titles in total. He resigned in 1991, despite the team topping the league table, and soon took over at Second Division Blackburn Rovers. Dalglish guided Rovers to promotion and then a famous Premier League title, backed by Jack Walker’s millions.

Following a single season at Newcastle, Dalglish then went 13 years out of management, before stepping in to replace Roy Hodgson as Liverpool manager in 2011. Dalglish’s second spell at Anfield was short but significant. In just 14 months, he brought in Andy Carroll for an outrageous £35 million, but also Luis Suarez for less than £23 million. He won Liverpool’s first trophy for six years in the League Cup and reached the final of the FA Cup, but also recorded the club’s worst league finish since 1994, and was subsequently dismissed.

2. Nigel Pearson - Leicester City

Manager Nigel Pearson of OH Leuven ahead of the Proximus League match between Lommel SK and OH Leuven at Soevereinstadion on January 27th, 2019 in Lommel, Belgium.Manager Nigel Pearson of OH Leuven ahead of the Proximus League match between Lommel SK and OH Leuven at Soevereinstadion on January 27th, 2019 in Lommel, Belgium.

A bit of a left-field inclusion, Nigel Pearson actually had two very successful stints in charge of Leicester City. In his first, which began in 2008 and ended in 2010, he guided the club to promotion from League One and into the play-off places in the Championship, making the Foxes one of the most formidable outfits in the country at home.

The combination of a fallout with Milan Mandaric and an approach from Hull City saw Pearson leave Leicester for the Tigers in 2010, where he did an effective job in steadying the ship with the recently-relegated Yorkshire outfit. Eighteen months after his arrival at the KCOM Stadium, Pearson caused a shock by requesting permission to speak to his former club Leicester, who were behind Hull in the Championship table.

The move came to fruition, and after two-and-a-half years, Pearson won promotion to the Premier League at the King Power Stadium. He then pulled off a remarkable great escape at the end of his debut campaign in the Premier League, facilitating Claudio Ranieri’s title win a season later, but also appeared to tell a fan to “f*** off and die”, put his hands around an opposition players neck and called a journalist an ostrich.

1. Jupp Heynckes - Bayern Munich

A sensational goal scorer during his playing days with Borussia Monchengladbach, Jupp Heynckes had three separate spells as Bayern Munich manager, as well as a fourth as caretaker boss. He won back-to-back league titles in his first stint, in the late 1980’s, but was sacked as the club languished in 12th place.

It would be 20 years before he returned in 2011, having won a Champions League with Real Madrid in that time, and he won an extraordinary treble in the second of his two seasons back in Bavaria, a feat which couldn’t be replicated by Heynckes’ successor Pep Guardiola.

Having seemingly retired in 2013, Heynckes briefly returned to management and to Bayern in 2017, taking the reigns for the rest of the season and winning one last Bundesliga title with the club.

So that’s if for our seven, we could have included the likes of Kevin Keegan at Newcastle, Billy McNeil at Celtic and of course the wonderful job that has been done by Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, but we had to cut it down somehow.

Let us know in the comments how you see Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid going and whether you feel it will be a success, along with any future ideas you may have!

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