Andre Villas-Boas: Family background
Duncan White reveals how ‘Baby Carrot’ went from being football computer geek to Chelsea’s manager
Published 27/06/2011 | 05:00
PROLOGUE: Andre Villas-Boas is exceptional. By the terms of his profession, he is a prodigy, at 33 becoming the youngest manager to win a European club trophy and doing it in style, with a free-scoring Porto team that caught the covetous eye of a Russian billionaire.
Here is a football obsessive whose geeky adolescent fantasies of managing a football club were realised by a chance encounter with Bobby Robson, the manager of Porto, the club he had supported from the moment he knew what a football club was.
He started doing his coaching badges before most kids of his age had done their A-Levels and was running the British Virgin Islands national team when most of his schoolmates were graduating from university.
Here is a privately-educated son of a professor and a descendent of nobility more than holding his own in the grimy world of football.
He went from being Robson's protege to Mourinho's spy and has always pushed those around him to match his ambitions: he wants everything fast, including his cars. Chelsea will have to keep up. He doesn't want to grow old in the job, planning to use his career to take him round the world: to Japan, Chile and Argentina.
Mourinho once said "it has taken me 15 years to be an overnight success".
Apposite in Villas-Boas' case too. There is little that is ordinary about him except, perhaps, his goalkeeping.
Villas-Boas was born in Porto in 1977 into an upper-middle class family who lived in the upmarket neighbourhood near Avenida Boavista.
His father, Professor Luis Filipe, is a chemical engineer who had begun his studies in Portugal before moving to England to do his PhD at in the chemistry faculty of the University of Kent in Canterbury. He now sits on the chemical engineering faculty of the Technical University of Lisbon and works for a company that makes hi-tech car parts.
Luis Filipe married Theresa, Andre's mother, in 1973. She runs her own business, with a number of clothing shops in Porto.
Villas-Boas grew up in this affluent family, with two sisters and a brother, and fraternised with the social elite of the city. He attended the prestigious Colegio do Roasario, one of the most expensive private schools in the city and with a reputation for academic excellence.
The school had originally been known as the English School, run by Sister Margaret Hennessey, an Irish nun and other members of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
"He was a polite, affable student, but while he was bright he did not study that hard because what really fascinated him was football," said Jose Eiro, the head of the PE department. Villas-Boas was obsessed with sport. He was a member of the exclusive English Club, where ex-pats would go to play cricket, polo, tennis and squash.
The noble ancestry
Villas-Boas' paternal great-great-grandfather Jose Joaquim Villas-Boas (1825-1906) was the Baron of Paco de Vieira, an area near Guimaraes north of Porto, and a judge on the Supreme Justice Tribunal.
He was also the civil governor of Braga. His son and Villas-Boas's great grandfather Jose Gerardo (1863-1913) became the first viscount of Guidhomil, up near the border with Spain.
Villas-Boas' grandfather, Goncalo, married an Englishwoman, Margaret Neville Kendall. Her mother's family, the Burns, were from Lancashire and Merseyside, but her father's family, the Kendalls, had been in Portugal for at least four generations and were most likely connected with the port wine industry.
Villas-Boas was enrolled as a member of FC Porto on July 4, 1980, just before his third birthday. He would become a passionate fan of the club.
At nine he was part of the family celebrations as they watched Porto beat Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final and he joined a football club called Ribeirense, based in the centre of Porto and the favourite club of the fanatical supporters' groups.
Football consumed him. He started on the 'gateway drugs' football magazines and Panini stickers before slipping down the slope into full-blown Championship Manager addiction. This computer game, with its endless statistics, simulated being a football manager and destroyed the social lives of a generation of football geeks.
Villas-Boas was hooked. He used to carry notebooks around with him, in which he scribbled tactical ideas and stats about players and every Monday, the normally reserved 'Cenourinho' (Baby Carrot, because of his red hair) would debate with his friends the weekend's games.
"I remember for one school project he handed in an exhaustive report on Porto and their tactics and substitutions with lots of statistics," said Eiro, his PE teacher.
Villas-Boas wanted to play too. There was a good amateur club near his school called Ramaldense. It was run from a small bar in the neighbourhood and, unlike most clubs, had their own pitch in the city centre, although now, because of financial problems, it lies fallow and is overgrown with weeds.
Humberto Coelho, the famous Benfica and Portugal defender, had played for them, but when Villas-Boas and a few of his friends joined, the club was struggling.
"There were three players I thought were good for the first team, including a small, but aggressive defensive midfield player -- Villas-Boas," recalls the coach from that period 'Spanish' Quim.
"He had been a goalkeeper, but he was not that good in goal, so was normally on the bench. At 18 he was not very big, but he was a good player for us. He knew he was not good enough to turn professional, though."
After leaving Ramaldense he moved to Marechel Gomes de Costa, named after an upmarket boulevard in the town, a bit like the King's Road in London.
"We were all boys from the same social background who loved football," explained Pedro Barros (35) the club captain. "It has always been quite informal. The team has engineers, doctors and students and it was as much about the social side as playing." He points to the motto on his club t-shirt: 'You'll never drink alone.'
"Andre joined us in 1998. We had mutual friends and I knew him from playing squash against him at the English club.
"He was a good player, not a big guy but wiry and he had no fear. He talked a lot on the pitch and he always took up good tactical positions.
"He had to quit at the end of the 1998-99 season, though, because he was already working for Porto and had more and more work with them and he could not get his Saturdays free."
THE crucial meeting
Villas-Boas got his big break in 1994. He was 16 and was living with his parents in what was then a new apartment block on Rua Tenente Valadim. Robson and his wife Elsie lived in the same building.
As a fanatical Porto fan, Villas-Boas could not help but confront the manager of his club when he bumped into him, wanting to know why he was not playing the striker Domingos Paciencia (who has since gone on to manage Braga and was Villas-Boas' opposite number in the Europa League final).
Robson liked the boy's chutzpah and asked him to leave a report in his letterbox. He liked what he read, so he asked Villas-Boas to keep writing them for him. He started to take his protege down to training.
Then he started taking Villas-Boas with him when he went down to Foz, the area of bars and restaurants at the mouth of the river Douro.
Over a meal or coffee, Robson would talk football with his coaching staff and it was there that Villas-Boas first came across Robson's outspoken interpreter, Jose Mourinho.
Robson formalised Villas-Boas' work by telling Porto to take him on as a youth coach, but he also helped him to start getting his coaching badges, persuading the English FA to let him on to a Lilleshall course even though he was still only 17.
He even set him up with a placement at his old club, Ipswich Town.
"Bobby phoned me and asked if I could have Andre over and let him watch training and show him how the club worked for a few weeks," said George Burley, the manager at the time.
"He wanted to know everything. He had listened a lot to Bobby and you could tell he'd had a big influence on him.
"People compare him to Jose Mourinho and there are things about him that are similar, but in terms of his love of very attacking football, well that philosophy came from Bobby.
"If he can combine the organisation of Mourinho and the enthusiasm of Bobby then he will be very good indeed."
A Scottish Education
Villas-Boas had planned to go to university and hoped to become a sports journalist. After meeting Robson, those plans changed. He plunged straight into getting his coaching licenses, attending courses at the Inverclyde National Sports Centre in Largs.
"Andre first came to us in 1994," said Jim Fleeting, the SFA director of football development. "He did his C, B, A and Pro License with us and was very studious, very dedicated. It must have been daunting coming to a foreign country and being younger than your classmates but he sailed through.
"I remember he used to read everything he could get his hands on, books on psychology, physiology."
Villas-Boas wanted to put some of his theories into practice and took the first opportunity, becoming technical director of the British Virgin Islands. "We wanted to recruit a young coach with the right qualifications," said Kenrick Grant, who ran the football association.
"He sent us his CV and, coming from a great club like Porto and being a friend of Bobby Robson, we were convinced.
"When he first arrived he was always on the beach, like he was on holiday!
But when he started to work he surprised me. He made a plan for all the teams, youth to senior, and had a manual with tactics and training plans, full of information. He was great with computers too.
"He started with the youth team and then wanted to train the seniors. He got some of them coaching the younger players who went on to become internationals, so he left a mark."
When Villas-Boas came back from the Caribbean, things changed quickly. He started working with the Porto youth team again and, in 2002, Mourinho replaced Octavio Machado as manager.
He started working for Mourinho on a part-time basis for the end of that season and then took the job full-time for the 2002-03 season, in which Porto won the league and the UEFA Cup.
He would go undercover to opposition training grounds to judge the mood of the players and assess their fitness before compiling his dossiers and compiling footage on DVDs.
Mourinho would call him his 'eyes and ears' and took him to Chelsea when he moved there in 2004 and, initially, to Internazionale before Villas-Boas, frustrated at not being given more responsibility, went out alone.
After Villas-Boas stopped working with Mourinho the relationship cooled and he said publicly this season that they no longer speak. He took a risk joining Academica Coimbra in 2009 because they were threatened with relegation, but he got them into mid-table.
The club took a chance, too, of course. "It was a risk, but a calculated risk," said technical director Luis Agostinho. "He was a strong leader who had an excellent training methodology."
Being younger than some of his players, you might have expected him to keep his distance, but he forged close bonds with his players. "His age was never a problem," said Pedrinho, who played right-back.
"Outside of training he was more like a friend, always wanting to know about your family.
"He was always first to text you or call you if you got injured. If a player went into hospital for an operation, he would be the first visitor."
When he left for Porto he sent a text message to every player in the squad which read: "I'm leaving you for a new adventure. I thank you for what we did together. Each one of you has made their mark on me at the start of my career and all in different and special ways."
Villas-Boas is loyal and he is bringing two trusted colleagues with him to Chelsea. Jose Mario Rocha, his fitness trainer, is someone he knows from his time coaching the Porto youth teams while Daniel Sousa does the job -- opposition scout -- which he himself used to do for Jose Mourinho.
Villas-Boas is a big motorsport fan and in March he was invited by FIA vice-president Carlos Barbosa and the Ford M-Sport team to race on one of the stages the day before the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship in the Algarve.
Villas-Boas also attended the Monaco Grand Prix this year and enjoys driving his own cars at speed on the mountain roads of Valongo near Porto. He has driven a BMW Z4 and an M5 and these days drives a special version of the Fiat 500 Abarth.
But Villas-Boas is not flash -- and he closely guards the privacy of his family. He no longer gives one-on-one interviews and very rarely appears at public functions with his wife Joana. (© Daily Telegraph, London)