Football is probably one of the best industries for recycling. I am not talking about plastic beer bottles or old football kits, I am talking about the players that serve the game as professionals and then move in to a career in coaching or management. We are seeing a new generation of these managers now: Malky Mackay at Cardiff, Dean Holdsworth at Aldershot and Lee Clark at Huddersfield are just some of the exciting up and comers around the lower leagues after finishing their playing careers in their mid to late 30’s. But imagine never having played the game before. Imagine at the age of 16 being given a job by one of the greatest managers of all time on the back of a conversation had in the corridor of an apartment block. Well this is the remarkable story of Andre Villas-Boas (AVB), the Porto boss that is quickly rising to stardom.
Luis Andre de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas or Andre Villas-Boas to the rest of the world, was a scrawny 16 year old when one night he bumped in to none other than Sir Bobby Robson who lived in the same apartment block. Villas-Boas was a big FC Porto fan and at this stage Sir Bobby was manager of the Portuguese giants so you can imagine the nervousness and excitement of meeting a hero … well this is how most of us would react anyway. AVB on the other hand, decided to have a go at Robson as he felt Sir Bobby should be playing Domingos Paciencia more regularly. He put across his views in perfect English and backed these up with some solid reasons and before he knew it his career in football began.
So impressed was Robson he gave 16 year old AVB a job in the observation department of FC Porto. Robson had an eye for seeing something special in people and wasn’t afraid to give them a chance. Robson and Mourinho had moved to FC Porto after being sacked by Sporting Lisbon, in the same way Robson ended up mentoring a young Mourinho, it would be Jose that would become the teacher for Villas-Boas. The two had a lot in common – neither of them were going to make it as a player but both had an inherent passion to be part of the game in some respect.
It wasn’t just the circumstantial factors that the two had in common; they both had a completely different view point on football and how to look at scouting players and opposition. They found this was there common-ground and developed a friendship as well as a professional relationship. Villas-Boas became the perfect right-hand man for Mourinho. He was able to prepare in-depth reports on opposition and transfer targets for Mourinho, an area that Jose was especially capable in after years of scouting for his dad’s team back in his youth. In return AVB was able to learn and develop his practical coaching techniques as well as experiencing firsthand the psychology that is one of Mourinho’s trademarks.
Although they both have stories that are probably worth buying the film-rights for, AVB is not a carbon-copy of Mourinho. AVB is at an early stage of his managerial career still, having only occupied the hot-seat at Liga Zon Sagres side Academica de Coimbra but only for the 2009-2010 season. He spent last season at Porto and made some landmark achievements becoming the youngest manager to ever win a European competition at 33 years old. He has beaten Jose Mourinho’s 33-game unbeaten record taking FC Porto to 36 games unbeaten across all competitions, has the record for the highest number of consecutive wins in the Portuguese league and the highest number of points in the a Liga Zon Sagres season.
No one can argue with the impressiveness of his achievements. He was on Mourinho’s staff at Chelsea and Inter as well, so he does have experience even if he is fresh to management. He is linked with becoming the number one at Chelsea, but is he ready for such a step up in class?
There is no doubt if Abramovich has gone for him, Mourinho would have been consulted on his suitability for the manager’s role in some way or another, whether recently or whilst they were originally at Chelsea. It is a huge gamble, not only for Chelsea, but for the man himself – he has just had a landmark season with FC Porto, one of the best in the clubs history and his job won’t be in jeopardy there. If he goes to Chelsea and doesn’t deliver a trophy in his first season the axe could fall again and they will have to pay a reported £13.2m release fee/transfer fee for the manager in the first place so this could well be be a costly experiment.
Whether he does or doesn’t end up at Chelsea he is certainly one to watch. Don’t be surprised if his strained relationship with Mourinho gets built up to the levels of a David Haye pre-fight if the two ever meet. Also don’t be surprised if Chelsea are linked with bringing Hulk and Falcao et al. to Stamford Bridge and don’t be surprised if this one doesn’t happen as this 33 year old will be younger than some players in the dressing room and has no Chmapions League experience. Either way the man’s profile has just been propelled into the stratosphere and won’t be coming down for a long time.