Having swapped one Lisbon giant for another, Jorge Jesus has been tasked with bringing the glory days back to Sporting Clube de Portugal. How will he go about it?
Article top media content
It was a scenario few envisaged on 31 May when Sporting Clube de Portugal won the Portuguese Cup, their first silverware since 2008. A few days later president Bruno de Carvalho announced that victorious coach Marco Silva, under contract for another three years, was to be replaced by Jorge Jesus, who had just led SL Benfica to a second successive Liga title.
Jesus was formally presented by the Lions on Wednesday, prompting UEFA.com to examine what he can bring to a club eager to win the championship after 13 barren years.
Experience and knowledge
Jesus is one of Portugal's most respected tacticians. When he arrived at Benfica for the 2009/10 season, doubts were raised about his experience, or lack of, with a top club. However, as he takes charge at Sporting – where he and his father spent time as players – there are no such reservations after a trophy-laden spell across the capital.
His know-how could be crucial for Sporting. Despite playing some attractive football last term, the Lions showed signs of inexperience at decisive moments, conceding costly late goals in domestic and UEFA Champions League matches.
In six campaigns at Benfica, Jesus won three championships, one Portuguese Cup and five Portuguese League Cups. May's cup triumph notwithstanding, Sporting are not used to acquiring trophies, their last top-flight title coming in 2002. Jesus, though, can change that. "We have to see ourselves as candidates to win all of the titles in Portugal," he said to the fans. "We have to wake the Lion that has been asleep for years."
Making the most of the resources
"There is quality to work with." Those were the first words Jesus said after visiting the Sporting academy for the first time. At Benfica he earned a reputation for being able to realise players' potential, especially young foreign imports. He improved the likes of Ángel Di María, Ramires, Nemanja Matić, Jan Oblak and Lazar Marković to such an extent that the club made huge profits on their transfers.
Sporting are renowned for producing young talent – indeed, they had seven players in the Portugal Under-21 squad that finished second in the Czech Republic last month and four more in the side which reached the last eight of the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup. If he improves these players as he did his Benfica pupils, Sporting cannot fail to progress.
Sharpening the competitive edge
To watch Jesus during a match is a show within a show. The adrenaline he emits is contagious and should bring a competitive edge to a Sporting team that in recent years has had a habit of going through lulls. The way Jesus acts could be vital in giving his new charges the impetus required to raise their game.
Tactics, consistency and creating a fortress
Sporting have been a 4-3-3 side in recent years, but Jesus is very much a 4-4-2 man. That system gave him the defensive solidity on which to build his six seasons of success with Benfica and helped establish dominant home records each campign. Transferring that to his new employers would provide an immediate improvement – Sporting had a habit of dropping important points at the Estádio José Alvalade last term. A first indicator of how things might pan out will arrive in August when Sporting, who enter the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League at the play-off stage, face Benfica in the Portuguese Super Cup.