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Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge

50-50 Challenge
By ESPN Staff

Chelsea complete Maniche loan deal

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has again strengthened his squad by ensuring cover during the absence of Michael Essien with the loan signing of Maniche.

Portugal international Maniche has joined from Dynamo Moscow until the end of the season, when Chelsea will consider whether to spend up to £5million on his acquisition.

The 28-year-old midfielder, who also played under Mourinho at Benfica and Porto, will provide cover while Essien is out injured with his current knee problem or away at the African Nations Cup finals.

The Ghanaian international is also suspended for both legs of Chelsea's Champions League last 16 encounter against Barcelona, having been banned by UEFA following his foul on Dietmar Hamann.

Mourinho may still choose to use Eidur Gudjohnsen as his third central midfielder along with Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard.

But Maniche provides top-level cover and his arrival into what was already by far the strongest squad in the Premiership is yet another demonstration of Chelsea's power in the transfer market.

The Blues confirmed on their website, : 'Chelsea have completed the loan signing of Portugal international midfielder Maniche.

'The 28-year-old joins until the end of the season from Dynamo Moscow. He has not played in European competition this season so is eligible for UEFA Champions League action.'

With Mourinho having allowed Jiri Jarosik to go on loan to Birmingham - while Tiago was sold - the Chelsea boss needed extra midfield cover, especially during Essien's absence.

The Chelsea boss revealed last week: 'Maniche could become a historic player in my career, the only one to play under me at three different clubs - Benfica, Porto and Chelsea.

'He would be the final piece to give stability in a key sector.'

Mourinho must now consider whether to plunge Maniche straight into Chelsea's FA Cup third round tie at home to Huddersfield on Saturday.

Chelsea's subsequent two encounters in the Premiership are at Sunderland on January 15 and at home to Charlton seven days later.

Either way, Mourinho will be determined to ensure Maniche is match-fit before the first leg of the clash against Barcelona on February 21 to keep his selection options fully open.