Jose Mourinho was sacked after pulling crackers and eating roast turkey with Chelsea’s coaching staff and players at the club’s silver service Christmas lunch on Thursday.
His contract was terminated at the training ground after owner Roman Abramovich took less than five minutes of the latest gathering of senior board members — their third of the week — to finally swing the axe.
Mourinho will be replaced in the short term by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, 69, who had a spell as interim boss at Stamford Bridge in 2009, winning the FA Cup.
Mourinho was summoned to a meeting in the main building with Abramovich, chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum, having pulled crackers and eaten roast turkey. The exchange, which lasted less than 10 minutes, concluded weeks of talks between Chelsea’s lawyers, Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes and the manager’s legal team over his £250,000-a-week contract.
Although his mood at training had been dark following Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester, his players were in high spirits when they went upstairs for their Christmas lunch. They laughed and joked, not knowing the axe was coming for their manager. Inside, he was burning.
Within minutes, he was out of a job after a short conversation with the Russian owner and the two directors. Mourinho soon left with his belongings, including a life-size cardboard cut-out and a ‘Special One’ mug. Chelsea will shortly confirm the appointment of Hiddink as interim boss in an attempt to stabilise the club, although coach Steve Holland is likely to be in charge for Saturday afternoon’s Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.
Hiddink, who has been negotiating with Chelsea behind the scenes for weeks, had a previous spell in charge of Chelsea when they dismissed Luiz Felipe Scolari in February 2009.
Despite claims from the club that Mourinho had a healthy relationship with his players, sporting director Michael Emenalo revealed on Thursday night that there had been ‘palpable discord’ between them.
Referring to the club’s decision to reward Mourinho with a four-year deal at the start of the season, worth £250,000 a week, Emenalo said: ‘That contract clearly signifies that what has happened today was not a pre-meditated decision. It was a decision taken to protect the interests of the club.
‘While there is huge sentiment for the individual who has done so much for the club, the fact of the matter remains that Chelsea Football Club is in trouble. The results are not good. There obviously seemed to be a palpable discord between manager and players, and we felt it was the time to act.
‘The owner was forced to make a very tough decision for the good of the club. Make no mistake about it, Chelsea — one of the biggest clubs in the world — are one point above relegation in the Premier League and that’s not good enough.
‘Any fan who loves the club or has any kind of affiliation to the club can understand that something needed to be done.’
Abramovich made the decision to fire Mourinho after Chelsea were beaten for the ninth time in the Premier League this season at leaders Leicester on Monday.
Long-term, Chelsea have sounded out Pep Guardiola about the job, but the Bayern Munich boss believes the club is too volatile. He is the world’s most wanted coach following his decision to quit Bayern next summer, and has indicated Chelsea would need 10 new players to make them competitive again at the elite level.
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone, who has a £15million buy-out clause, is also on Chelsea’s radar but in the short term they will turn to Hiddink. The Dutchman, 69, who led Chelsea to FA Cup success after replacing Scolari, has been out of work since a disastrous spell in charge of Holland.
Hiddink was fired in June during their failed qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 and has been out of management ever since. He has stayed on good terms with Abramovich following his successful stint at Stamford Bridge six years ago and has agreed to take charge again.