Andre Villas Boas. A name that, this time last year was familiar only to those in Portugal. If we look twelve months on, his reputation has increased immeasurable amounts as he is now being likened to the ‘Special One’ himself, Jose Mourinho. So what makes him so ‘special’? And does he merit such a label? Writes James Nissen…
Andre Villas Boas’ career began when he was just 17 years of age, when he approached the then F.C. Porto manager Sir Bobby Robson in an effort to launch his career. Robson enlisted Villas Boas as a member of his ‘observational’ staff, and with Jose Mourinho the then Assistant to Sir Bobby Robson, they both learnt together. Following four years under Sir Bobby Robson, Villas Boas had a short stint as the head coach of the British Virgin Islands national football team, where his tenure lasted only two games, losing both matches, conceding 14 goals whilst managing only 1, before moving onto a career as an assistant following Mourinho’s appointment as manager at old club F.C. Porto in 2002. Mourinho achieved enormous success during his time at F.C. Porto, winning the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Champions League, one Portuguese Supercup as well as achieving back-to-back Liga Sagres titles during his only two seasons at the club.
In 2004, Mourinho left F.C. Porto to take over the ranks at Chelsea, taking protégé Villas Boas with him. Success followed the move as Mourinho immediately emulated the success he achieved in Portugal, winning the Premier League title back-to-back in 2004/2005 and again in 2005/2006, along with one FA Cup, two League Cup trophies and one Community Shield. By this time Villas Boas’ pre-match scouting included personalised DVDs for every player, offering a thorough outline of their opponent in the next game, comprising strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, a feat Mourinho often got the plaudits for. Mourinho left Chelsea in 2008 and quickly took the job at Serie A club Internazionale, Villas Boas again following his path. Again Mourinho and co were able to imitate their prior exploits as in his first season he lifted the Series A title, as well as the Italian SuperCup.
Following this further success Villas Boas decided it was time to leave Internazionale to pursue his dream of becoming a manager himself. It didn’t take long for him to reach this as he took the realms at Liga Sagres side Academica de Coimbra, following Rogerio Goncalves’ resignation in October 2009. Academica, at this point, were bottom of the league, but following Villas Boas arrival their luck began to change. Villas Boas employed an evident new style; combining free-flowing, attacking football with a disciplined defence, Villas Boas was able to guide them to a respectable eleventh place, ten points clear from relegation. He was also able to figurehead a cup-run, with Academica reaching the Semi Final of the Portuguese League Cup against F.C. Porto, losing only due to a late goal by Mariano Gonzalez. Not a bad first season for the relative novice. Amid Villas Boas impressive first managerial season, he gained a lot of admirers in Portugal, with intense media speculation linking him with the vacant position at Sporting Clube de Portugal after the departure of Carvalhal.
Villas Boas decided against a move to the Portuguese capital, and, when Jesualdo Ferreira left F.C. Porto in the summer of 2010, Andre Villas Boas was soon appointed his successor; becoming the youngest manager in F.C. Porto’s history at only 32 years of age. This was a real feat for a man whose managerial career had stretched only 23 games, uncannily mimicking Mourinho’s appointment in 2002, the self proclaimed ‘special one’ having only been in charge of 28 games prior to his appointment.
Villas Boas began his reign as manager at Estadio do Dragao with a win, defeating Benfica 2-0 in the Portugeuse Supercup, Villas Boas’ first piece of silverware.
Following the capture of the Supercup, Villas Boas, without making noticeable changes, has been able to reproduce this wining mentality in the league thus far, piloting his team to an unbelievable 36 wins from 42 games, scoring 97 goals in the process whilst conceding only 24 goals, setting the club record for most matches across all competitions unbeaten on the way; a record previously set by Jose Mourinho at 33 games.
F.C. Porto now sit eleven points clear at the top of the league with eight matches remaining, and, barring a late surge from their closest rivals SL Benfica and an unlikely decline in results, F.C Porto are to reaffirm their grip on the Liga Sagres title that they let slip last season, as well as offer a reminder that they are arguably the best team in Portuguese football.
With a win ratio of over 85% it is easy to see why Villas Boas has been linked to top European teams such as Juventus and Liverpool FC, and at only 33 years old, a move to one of Europe’s elite is not out of the question. If Villas Boas were to move across Europe to the likes of Spain, Italy or England, it would be interesting to view how he fares, and if he were to do so, I’m sure the comparisons to Mourinho would continue.
It is obvious that Villas Boas is a huge talent, and although he is very much at the beginning of his career, he has certainly established himself as a top manager, laying the foundation for the emulation of his compatriot’s success. However, he must be allowed the opportunity to establish himself as a manager forthright, as a pose to any success promptly being compared to that of Mourinho.