Villas-Boas steadily following in Mourinho’s footsteps
When Andre Villas-Boas walked away from the San Siro last summer it marked the end of a seven-year working relationship with Jose Mourinho.
The pair worked had together from the season of Porto’s Champions League triumph in 2004, through the glorious times at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea, to end with a successful year at Inter Milan.
Villas-Boas’ career began in Porto under Sir Bobby Robson when the former Ipswich Town manager recruited him as a member of his ‘observational’ staff.
The 33-year-old is acutely aware of the influence Robson had on his career. “Bobby Robson was very important to me in the beginning when I first came to this stadium as a coach at the age of 17,” he recalls.
Villas-Boas first joined up with Mourinho in 2003 when he was appointed as his assistant. His job was to closely analyse opponents to suss out the potential weaknesses.
Following 14 years as young coach learning his trade, Villas-Boas undertook his first project as a fully fledged manager when he accepted an offer to become Academica’s boss last season. His new club were perennial stragglers in the Portuguese Liga.
Upon his appointment, the hierarchy at Academica said: “The success of Mourinho in all his clubs is closely linked to the work of Villas-Boas in his observation and analysis of teams, which has been acknowledged on numerous occasions by Mourinho himself.”
Indeed, the innovative tactician transformed the club’s fortunes as they escaped the clutches of relegation and managed a respectable eleventh place finish. Meanwhile, however, Villas-Boas’ former club Porto were struggling, limping into third place behind Benfica and Sporting de Braga.
Porto opted to sack coach Jesualdo Ferreira last month despite three successive league titles in previous seasons. Villas-Boas signed a two-year contract to become Ferreira’s successor as he begins to follow in Mourinho’s footsteps.
The young manager is keen to isolate himself from the inevitable comparisons to Mourinho despite describing the charismatic coach as being “very important” to him.
“I am not a clone of anyone,” he said recently. “I want to leave my mark on this club.”
Villas-Boas enjoyed the perfect start to his spell at the Estadio do Dragao. Reigning league champions Benfica succumbed to a rejuvenated Porto side in the Portuguese Super Cup as goals from Rolando and Falcao helped the new coach begin his tenure with a 2-0 win.
“It was a special match, very emotional,” he said after the match. “We made a strong start to the game. We were well-organised tactically and we were always very balanced.”
His talent will surely one day lead him to the biggest European leagues. Time will tell, though, if the apprentice can truly become the master.