Coach Jorge Jesus leaves Flamengo to return to Benfica

(Reuters) - Coach Jorge Jesus is leaving Brazilian champions Flamengo to return to his native Portugal for a second spell in charge of Benfica.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Carioca Championship - Flamengo v Bangu - Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - June 18, 2020 Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus during the match, following the resumption of play behind closed doors after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The Rio de Janeiro club confirmed on Friday that the 65-year-old Jesus was leaving and Benfica later tweeted, “Welcome JJ.”

Media in Brazil and Portugal had reported that he would be joining the Lisbon club on a three-year deal worth three million euros a season.

Jesus will replace Bruno Lage, who resigned last month after winning one of five games since football restarted in Portugal after the hiatus caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

“Our greatest thanks go to him and his backroom staff for all they have done and we hope they continue to enjoy the same enormous success they had with us,” Flamengo said in a statement.

If will be Jesus’s second spell at Benfica, who he managed for six years between 2009 and 2015, winning three Portuguese league titles.

He came to Rio in June 2019 and enjoyed a successful stint in the city, coaching Flamengo to the Brazilian first division title, the Copa Libertadores and Rio de Janeiro state championship, which they clinched on Wednesday.

With his heavy Portuguese accent and easily recognisable flowing grey locks, Jesus became a cult figure in Brazil, where adoring fans gave him the affectionate nickname Mister.

He led Flamengo to their most successful spell since Zico and Junior were at the club in the early 1980s, at one point taking them on a spectacular 29-game unbeaten run.

He will be charged with boosting Benfica’s fortunes.

The capital club are second in the Portuguese league behind rivals Porto, who have already won the championship with two games to spare.

Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris