André Villas-Boas is leading FC Porto in Europe for the first time against play-off rivals KRC Genk and the 32-year-old insists comparisons to former boss José Mourinho are not welcome.
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Appointed in June at the age of 32, André Villas-Boas is the youngest coach in FC Porto's history and, as he prepares to lead the Dragons into Europe for the first time in Thursday's UEFA Europa League play-off against KRC Genk, things could hardly be going better.
His charges defeated Liga champions SL Benfica 2-0 on 7 August to take the Portuguese Super Cup, before kicking off their 2010/11 campaign with a 1-0 win at A. Naval 1º Maio on Saturday. The more results go well, the more comparisons to one of his famous predecessors will continue.
"Ever since I came back to Portugal I have been trying to duck comparisons between me and José Mourinho," Villas-Boas said this month. "We do not have the same character or personality. We communicate and work differently." Villas-Boas ought to know, having assisted the so-called Special One at Porto, Chelsea FC and, until the summer of 2009, FC Internazionale Milano.
The diminutive Mourinho still casts a long shadow at the Estádio do Dragão. Having taken charge aged 39 in January 2002, he led Porto to two Liga titles, one Portuguese Cup, the 2002/03 UEFA Cup and the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League before leaving for Chelsea in 2004.
Discussing his former assistant's move back to his old club, Real Madrid CF boss Mourinho said: "If he wins he will be the perfect coach, but don't compare him to me." Sadly, perhaps, for the new arrival, that particular tide has proved impossible to stem.
Villas-Boas was a teenager when he first worked in Porto's scouting department under the late Sir Bobby Robson, one of Mourinho's mentors. He was in his mid-20s when he joined Mourinho's staff, following him from success to success in Portugal, England and Italy before venturing out on his own as coach of A. Académica de Coimbra last October.
His side ended last season 11th in the table, but his 23 Liga games at the helm persuaded Porto to hire the relative novice as Jesualdo Ferreira's replacement. Curiously, Mourinho had been appointed with only 28 games to his name – nine at Benfica and 19 at UD Leiria.
Explaining his footballing philosophy in a Portuguese newspaper, Villas-Boas appeared to take a different line to Mourinho's coolly efficient style, saying: "Football is about showmanship and creativity, but it's also about organisation and efficiency. By organisation, I don't mean anything boring, but discipline, intelligence and knowledge."
So far, he has avoided making big changes. Porto have retained their usual 4-3-3 formation, with €11m midfield signing João Moutinho the only notable addition and with Raul Meireles featuring less for "technical reasons". Captain Bruno Alves's €22m move to FC Zenit St. Petersburg leaves 24-year-old Rolando to anchor the defence, a task he is enjoying immensely.
"It's a sign people believe I can give more," said the Portuguese international. "I want to help André win silverware. In the end the measure of a coach's work will be the number of trophies he wins." If that number ends up matching Mourinho's figure, for once comparisons might be welcome.