Villas-Boas was perfect for Porto but is he right man to rebuild Blues?
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
The journey that has taken Andre Villas-Boas to the brink of becoming Chelsea's new manager has all the components of a football fairytale.
The teenage notes that Villas-Boas wrote to Bobby Robson when he was his neighbour in Porto; the apprenticeship with Jose Mourinho and then the success last season at Porto achieved at the age of 33. He is only five months older than Didier Drogba.
But there's no doubt that Roman Abramovich's latest managerial appointment, beaten only by the hiring of Avram Grant in September 2007 for its sheer left-field quality, is also a huge gamble.
Where did Villas-Boas come from? It is a good question because, despite his stellar season at Porto over the last nine months, there is an argument in his native Portugal that he would never have got that job were it not for his association with Mourinho.
Villas-Boas and Mourinho may no longer be on speaking terms but the connection has paid dividends for the younger man.
This time last year, Villas-Boas had managed just 23 games in professional football. That was at Academica, which he took over in October 2009. He managed to keep them in the top flight and it was a creditable effort but the reward for Villas-Boas -- the manager's job at Porto -- was extraordinary.
He was given the job partly because Pinto da Costa, the club's president, believes in picking young managers and also because of the attraction of appointing a coach who had worked with Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea. From there on, Villas-Boas' rise has been sensational.
Porto won the league undefeated last season by 21 points from Benfica. They also won the Portuguese Cup and, last month, the Europa League final in Dublin.
Until the end of last week, it was anticipated by Porto that he would take his boyhood team into the Champions League next year, with five new signings that he had requested.
When he took over at Porto last summer, Villas-Boas made just two changes. Raul Meireles, who left for Liverpool, was replaced with Joao Moutinho. Nicolas Otamendi replaced Bruno Alves. Those who watch Porto closely say that the big question over Villas-Boas is whether he has proved himself capable of building a team at a big club rather than just finessing what was already there.
As a coach he sees his style as less dictatorial and more liberated than Mourinho. Joking in one interview that a manager can only work with the talent of the players he has, he speculated what might happen to him with a lesser team. "I am not the Special One. Maybe, then (with poorer players), I will be the S**t One."
His fall-out with Mourinho came when, having moved with his boss to Internazionale, Villas-Boas asked to be promoted ahead of Rui Faria to the No 2 job. He gave Mourinho the ultimatum that he was either promoted or he would leave. Mourinho told him to leave and contact between the two has dwindled away since then.
He is well accustomed to being characterised as a "Mini-Mourinho" and, in their common lack of a playing career, there is a parallel. But Villas-Boas is less likely to court controversy.
The pair's falling-out is so extensive that the deal to bring Villas-Boas to Chelsea was not thought to be negotiated by Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese super-agent who represents Mourinho. It is understood that Mourinho would not sanction his agent working for Villas-Boas.
But later this month, Villas-Boas will walk into a changing room full of the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Drogba -- all of them only just younger than him -- and try to emulate once more the achievements of the man who built this great Chelsea team seven years ago. (© Independent News Service)