The new FC Porto coach, Victor Fernández, told uefa.com of his hopes for the coming season.
By Nuno Tavares
A little over three weeks ago, FC Porto fans were stunned by the decision of the UEFA Champions League holders to axe Luigi Del Neri, the Italian who had only recently replaced José Mourinho as the club's coach. However, worry and surprise soon gave way to restored optimism as Víctor Fernández was unveiled as the new coach.
Having parted company with Real Betis Balompié at the end of last season, Fernández was preparing for a year's sabbatical when the phone rang. The 43-year-old Spaniard, who won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Real Zaragoza in 1994/95, did not think twice when handed the opportunity to take charge of a team that has sparkled in Europe over the last two years.
But, with just nine days to prepare for the first competitive match of the season, he had little time to gently bask in his new role at the Estádio do Dragão. His arrival, however, seemed to boost the players' morale, helping them secure a 1-0 win over SL Benfica in Coimbra last Friday. Ricardo Quaresma scored the only goal giving Porto their 14th Portuguese Super Cup success, and fuelling optimism for their UEFA Super Cup meeting with Valencia CF.
"It's going to be a very tough match", Fernández told uefa.com. "I know Valencia very well and I'm perfectly aware of their strengths. I wish I had more time to prepare for the game but that's the way things are and we have to cope with it. My players are ready to go out there and give their best in order to win. We've started the season well, but this is a whole different ball game."
The Zaragoza-born coach has inherited a team that has lost key performers like Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira. Nevertheless, with such huge talents as Diego, Quaresma and Giourkas Seitaridis to replace them, Fernández is confident about his squad's chances of emulating their most recent achievements.
'On the right track'
"While it's true that Porto have sold some influential players, I strongly believe that we can achieve great things again in the near future", said Fernández. "The players are working hard and I couldn't be happier with the team's attitude. We are definitely on the right track."
'Dream come true'
Despite his optimism, Fernández is taking nothing for granted. Defending both domestic and European titles is no easy task, but Porto managed it brilliantly last season so why not again? "Every team wants to defeat us because we are the European champions. I won't lose any sleep over it because that's something that always happens to winning clubs. Our main concern is to do everything in our power to stay at the top. I'm very happy to be here and it's a privilege to train these players. It's a dream come true."
However, the stakes are high and the fairy tale could well turn into a nightmare if Fernández does not live up to expectations. His success depends mainly on how well the players respond to his attacking ethos, but with the likes of Maniche, Costinha, Carlos Alberto and Derlei still there, who would dare bet against him?