Winning a European trophy would be a good way to start for FC Porto and Valencia CF's new coaches.
By Simon Hart in Monaco
Stepping into a hero's shoes cannot be easy and Víctor Fernández and Claudio Ranieri, the two coaches preparing for the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco, will know this better than most.
These are the men charged with replacing the most successful managers in European football last season. Of course, following José Mourinho, as Fernández has done at European champions FC Porto, or Rafael Benítez, as is Ranieri's brief at UEFA Cup holders Valencia CF, brings the upside of working with practised winners. The difficult bit is retaining that winning habit.
Speaking at the Stade Louis II, both Fernández and Ranieri suggested the first step was not to tinker too much with a winning formula. "When things are going well, you can't just break it all up," said Fernández. "Logically every coach has his own ideas which I will try and introduce little by little."
Ranieri said much the same: "Of course, a coach has his ideas but it's not possible after one month to change everything." Ironically, it was his tinkering which arguably cost Ranieri's Chelsea FC victory on his last visit to this stadium, for last season's UEFA Champions League semi-final. "I don't want to remember," the Italian joked. He did hint, however, that we could expect a more attacking Valencia this term, suggesting that Benítez's side "were playing Italian-style".
Fernández too hopes to make his influence felt and Ranieri, reflecting on Porto's 1-0 defeat of SL Benfica in last week's Portuguese Super Cup, believes the Spaniard has done so already. He cited Porto's "quicker football" that night as a change from the "shorter passing game" under Mourinho. Fernández's only admission was that his team would "force mistakes from my opponent rather than wait for them to make mistakes".
Replaced Del Neri
The Spaniard joined the Portuguese champions less than three weeks ago, after the departure of Mourinho's original replacement, Luigi Del Neri, whose approach had not endeared him to the players. He inherited a squad weakened by the departures of players like Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Pedro Mendes. Yet he was confident the foundations for further success were in place.
"For a long time there's been a very strong structure here," he said. "They are used to losing strong players and this year that number may have been more than usual. But there are players with a lot of experience and they're very supportive of the newcomers."
Of these newcomers, Giourkas Seitaridis, Ricardo Quaresma and possibly Hugo Leal will start tomorrow, but Brazilian teenager Diego is injured, together with compatriot Derlei. As for Valencia, of Ranieri's four Italian acquisitions - Emilano Moretti, Stefano Fiore, Marco Di Vaio and Bernardo Corradi - the most likely to start is Di Vaio, despite Corradi's goal in Tuesday's home defeat by Real Zaragoza.
That 3-1 loss undid a 1-0 first-leg success and cost Valencia the Spanish Super Cup but Ranieri is hopeful his players will respond positively here. "I like men who get up quickly after they've fallen," he said. And he believes he has this at the club he first coached between 1997 and 1999. "They're like a group of friends who fight for each other," he said.
Both sides have won this competition once before, Porto in 1987 and Valencia in 1980. Their domestic campaigns will start in the coming week but first comes an opportunity to pick up where they left off in May, with a victory in Europe. Not a bad way for any new coach to begin.