Monday, May 24, 2010


30 Jan 2005

1. What motivated you to become a coach?
The biggest motivation was football, not the coaching job. Every kid who loves football wants to be a player. I thought I could be one, although maybe not a top one. At the same time my father was a coach and football was a big part of my life. I studied at the sports university and therefore it was step by step. You feel that you cannot be a top player, but you love to study football, sports science and methodology, and on reaching a certain age, you decide that you would love to coach, to be involved in football. You lose the appetite to be a player and you start to love the idea of being a coach. At this moment in time I can say I love to be a coach on the pitch. I like the direct involvement with the players, the methodology, the exercises, the development of ideas, analysing the game, trying to improve the players and the team. The English part of the job which links you to the other areas of the club, like the Youth Academy and the work of the Board, appeals to me. I love all aspects on the job, but I got to his point step by step.

I started as U-16 coach in Portugal and when I finished my studies I went to Scotland in the late 80s to join you, and your methods made me think about methodology in a different way. The way you used small-sided games to develop technical, tactical and fitness elements – a global view of training. After I came back from Scotland I felt I made a difference through my coaching work. After working in the youth sector I joined Sporting Lisbon as assistant to Bobby Robson. The first step was to study, the next step was to develop young players and the third step was to work alongside a big coach at pro level. I repeat, the process was step by step.

2. How did leaving Portugal for Spain affect you development as a coach?
I joined Bobby in Barcelona and this was a big motivation – new country, new culture. Then Louis van Gaal arrived and I was exposed to another style, another philosophy. While Bobby knew everything about me, I had to prove myself to Louis, to adapt to the Dutch School, to a new way of training. The Ajax School, the van Gaal way of seeing football, was a new adventure for me. After another four years at Barca and at 34 years old, I returned to Portugal. I may have looked young, but I was prepared to become a head coach – my journey had been a long process, involving many important experiences.

3. What was it like to come back to FC Porto as head coach?
The first six months were incredibly difficult because the club and the team were in a very bad situation. But this period helped me to understand the club and to prepare the next season. I changed players and reorganised the team – it was a crucial period of rebuilding. The next season was fantastic because we won the UEFA Cup and the treble in Portugal. That season prepared us for the next season because the level was not the same in the Champions League. Confidence was high because the players were ready to face trips to Manchester of Madrid. It was a great process – this just did not happen by chance. Along the way, I have been influenced by some people, although I have never been the type to just accept the truth of others. For example, I still have in my mind some exercises I did with you in Scotland, but from these I tried to develop my own variations. The same with ideas from Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal. Even when I was scouting for Bobby around the world I got ideas. I tell youngsters who are trying to follow me, “don’t accept what I give you as the pure truth.” I have always tried to learn, and people like Louis challenged me. During my last year at Barca, for example, I was given the responsibility of taking the team in some friendlies or cup games and Louis would monitor the way I handled things. I was prepared to take charge of a team – I had developed my know- how and my confidence. Confident yes, arrogant no. I am open to people, and my friends laugh when they read articles which label me as arrogant – they know it is not true. I am focused on my job when I say I think we will win I am only saying what most coaches think before a match. When the players think you are strong and that you trust them, it helps them to have a good attitude.

4. Was there one moment when you knew you were on the way to stardom?
Yes. Portugal is like Scotland. You can be a king in our own country but people outside don’t recognise you and, of course, your countrymen wonder if you can be a success abroad. The important thing is to be recognised in Europe and the crucial moment for me was when we won away to Panathinaikos FC in the quarterfinals of the 2003 UEFA Cup. We had lost at home and no Portugese team had ever earned a point in Greece. We won 2-0 and in that moment I felt I had gone from the domestic level to the European standard. Winning the final against Celtic was the second big step in my career because I then felt I was a success in European terms and could move to higher things.

5. What do you emphasise in your training sessions?
I have a plan at the beginning of the season and I try not to waste any time – I concentrate on my tactical ideas for the team. I write down my ideas and give them to everyone in the club. The tactical aspects of the game: how to press, when to press, transitions, ball possession, positional play. After that other things come – the physical and psychological aspects are part of the exercises. The individual work is done when we feel the players need that. Often we need to separate the players into groups depending on their condition and the amount of playing time they have had. The emphasis of the work is always tactical.

6. How would you describe your style as a coach?
I think it has been an evolution – I am different today than I was five years ago. When it comes to games, I am much more analytical during the first half because at half time I need to help my team. It is difficult to communicate with the players during a top match so I don’t shout too much but I do take notes, but only in the first half. The second half I can analyse at home. During the half-time team talk, I try to control my emotions and to be what the team needs me to be – this means that I can be very cool or I can be very emotional because the team needs a certain response from me. There is always a certain emotional component as well as a tactical contribution. There is always something to tell the team at half time, but after the match not one word, because the players are not ready to be analytical at that moment. Overall, I would say that I have a flexible management style, although I am very demanding during training. I have always been lucky to have more than one pitch at my training centre, and I therefore prepare my sessions in such a way that I can jump from one situation to another with effective working time high and resting time very low. We go for quality and high intensity during short periods. Players want to work, whether it is in Portugal, England or Spain, as long as the training is well organised and serious, and they know the purpose of the exercise.

7. Having won the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League back-to-back, what is your view of these competitions?
The ‘knock-out’ element of each top competition is fantastic. Every team must be prepared to play for a result away from home. With Porto I tried to play away with exactly the same mentality that we had at home. If you want to win a competition, you cannot play in a crazy way at home to try to keep the score down when you are away. In the UEFA Cup, our results with Porto were very similar home and away. When I prepared my Porto team for the Champions League, I arranged matches during the pre-season which exposed us to different systems, different approaches to the game. To win the UEFA Champions League, you need to be a very strong team but at some point you need luck, like the last minute goal my Porto team scored against Manchester United, (although I think we deserved it). After that we went on to win the cup, and I don’t remember any team winning at this level without such a moment – a penalty, a late winner, etc. At the highest level there is often very little difference when the first of the group has to play the second of another group. It means nothing because the runners up can be Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. In addition, the away goals rule in extra time kills any advantage of being the home team in the second leg.

The UEFA Champions League is the ultimate club competition – even the European/South American Cup is nothing in comparison. I must say that, for me, the emotion was much greater when winning the UEFA Cup against Celtic than beating Monaco in the UEFA Champions League final because of the game of football. The match against Celtic was dramatic until the last moment – they even sent their goalkeeper into our penalty box to attack a corner in the dying seconds. But after the dust has settled, then UEFA Champions League title is the greatest prize. On a personal level, the night we won it was difficult because I was full of conflicting emotions, knowing that I would be leaving the team – I did not see my Porto players again until three months later when they came to Stamford Bridge in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition.

8. What was your impression of Euro 2004?
I think Greece in EURO 2004 was like Porto in the UEFA Champions League because the strength of the team and the desire to be successful were decisive. For Greece, it was a step-by-step process of gaining confidence and a victory for commitment, belief and organisation. Like everyone else I thought some top players were below par. Also, in countries where they can build around the players of one or two clubs, like Greece, this can be an advantage. In the big countries – that is those with the money – this cannot happen because the players are spread around various clubs. I must say that Portugal, as a country, was fantastic with the organisation, and the team did well. The image of Portugal was enhanced by EURO 2004. As we are talking about national teams, I can tell you that one day I would like to be the head coach of Portugal, but not now. I would not like to retire without having been the Portuguese manager.

9. Are there any laws, interpretations or regulations which concern you?
At Chelsea, I am frustrated because often our counter-attacks are stopped by ‘technical fouls’ and no yellow cards are given. Some teams are masters at this. Also, the interpretation of the offside law is very confusing and it must be very difficult for the match officials to make decisions.

10. What are the main qualities that you look for in a player?
Once again, I take a global view. I have produced profiles for each position in terms of personality, athletic qualities, technical skills, etc. And, of course, if a player lacks speed he has no chance in today’s top-level football. OK, you may get a midfield player who is quick mentally and he can still perform despite the high tempo. Also, in English football, fullbacks who lack height can have problems because of the long-ball tactic employed by many teams.

11. What tactical trends do you see at the top level of the game?
Transitions have become crucial. When the opponent is organised defensively, it is very difficult to score. The moment the opponent loses the ball can be the time to exploit the opportunity of someone being out of position. Similarly when we lose the ball we must react immediately. In training I sometimes practice keeping a minimum of five players behind the ball, so that when we lose it we can still keep a good defensive shape. The players must learn to read the game – when to press and when to return to their defensive positions. Everybody says that set plays win most games, but I think it is more about transitions.

12. What concerns you most about football today?
On the field, the constant disruption and the wasting of time bothers me. I would like us to consider actual playing time because some people are clever at manipulating the time.

13. How has your meteoric rise to the top affected your life style and you as a person?
Nobody knew me, and then suddenly within two seasons I am known everywhere. Of course, you live with the pressure and with the public attention. My life and that of my family has changed. It is, of course, part of the job to deal with the various demands. However, a principle for me is that I never miss a training session due to other claims on my time. I strongly believe that professional duties always come before external business requests. You will gather that, for me, football is my job but also my passion.

With thanks to uefadirect and UEFA Technical Director Andy Roxburgh for providing the interview

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