The rise of new Chelsea manager Villas-Boas
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
UEFA.com charts André Villas-Boas's journey from Sir Bobby Robson's teenage scout to Chelsea FC manager, via the British Virgin Islands and a treble-winning campaign at FC Porto.
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Thirteen months ago André Villas-Boas was an unassuming young coach at an unfashionable mid-table Portuguese Liga club but, after a memorable campaign at FC Porto, he has been appointed manager of Chelsea FC. UEFA.com charts the 33-year-old's remarkable rise.
It is fair to say that expectations were not too high when Villas-Boas returned to Porto's Estádio do Dragão as coach in June. Just 32 and with less than a season under his belt at A. Académica de Coimbra, he represented a brave, instinctive choice by president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa: how fortune favours the bold.
Villas-Boas became the first Portuguese coach to guide a side through a Liga campaign unbeaten, Porto refusing to let their foot off the gas in the last five games with the title already secure. The team's record is worth highlighting: P30 W27 D3 L0 F73 A16. Remarkable; all the more so as the previous term, under Jesualdo Ferreira, they finished third behind SL Benfica and SC Braga.
They were far from done. On 18 May Villas-Boas became the youngest coach to win a UEFA club competition, guiding Porto to UEFA Europa League glory against Braga at the Dublin Arena. Four days later Porto claimed their fourth trophy of the season – they kicked off the campaign with domestic super cup success – with a 6-2 win against Vitória SC in the Portuguese Cup final.
Yet Villas-Boas is dismissive when it comes to talk of his Midas touch. "People focus too much on the manager – it's down to the structure of the club and the players," he said in perfect English, something he owes to his British grandmother. "Football is not a one-man show. My job is to nurture talent, to allow players to explore their capabilities to the full. You have to free them and let them make their own choices. I'm no dictator."
It is a philosophy his players embraced. "It's the freedom he gives us," said Porto goalkeeper and captain Helton, only seven months younger than Villas-Boas. "He looks after us and tries to give us what we need, while making sure he gets what he wants from us tactically. [When things aren't going right] he gives us tranquility and reminds us what we're capable of. We've heard that speech a few times now."
It could all have been very different. As a teenager Villas-Boas had aspirations of being a journalist when a letter to then Porto coach Bobby Robson, bemoaning the lack of chances for striker Domingos (whose Braga side he beat in Dublin), changed everything. "Fortunately Robson took me to the club and got me on training courses in England and Scotland," he explained. "If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here but with you on the other side of the barricade."
By 16 Villas-Boas was working at Porto's scouting and statistics department and at 21, when schoolmates were making their first tentative steps into employment, he was director of football of the British Virgin Islands. José Mourinho, with whom he is often (reluctantly) compared, brought him back to Porto as his head of opposition scouting and when he moved to Chelsea and FC Internazionale Milano he took his protege with him.
Villas-Boas struck out on his own in October 2009, arriving at Académica seven games into the new season with the side rooted to the foot of the Liga, still seeking their first win. He guided them to mid-table respectability and, over the course of those 23 games, did enough to persuaded Pinto da Costa to re-employ him. He has not looked back. Twelve months on he leaves Porto with a teeming trophy cabinet and sense of invincibility.
Chelsea hope he can have a similar immediate impact at Stamford Bridge, and while leading a side in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League constitutes new ground, Villas-Boas does not seem easily daunted. Perhaps it is the liberty of youth – at 33 he is the same age as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.