Portuguese managers are in vogue. Leonardo Jardim, Sérgio Conceição, Marco Silva and Rui Vitória, just to name the most obvious examples, all greatly enhanced their reputations this season, at a time when, after a decade and a half of almost unbroken success, some argue José Mourinho has lost his magic touch.

Who deserves the title of the best current Portuguese football manager? PortuGOAL looks at the top six candidates and their credentials.

 

1. Is José Mourinho still the Special One? Mourinho’s brilliant work at FC Porto launched him on a career that has so far earned him 2 Champions League triumphs, 1 UEFA Cup, 8 national championships (in 4 different countries) and a host of domestic cups. No other Portuguese coach (and almost no other manager of any nationality for that matter) even comes close to matching Mourinho’s CV.

But a rare poor season at Chelsea last year has been followed by a mixed campaign at Manchester United. Having won the Community Shield and League Cup, should United beat Ajax in the Europa League final, thus qualifying directly for next season’s Champions League, it will go down as a successful season. Failure to beat the Dutch side in Stockholm next week, though, and his detractors will point to a disappointing league campaign and a 6th-place finish despite a heavy summer of investment, to lend weight to the notion that he has been overtaken by some of his compatriots.

 

2. Leonardo Jardim has just been named Manager of Year in France after his sensational season at Monaco. It is a richly deserved accolade. Jardim’s exciting young team are practically certain to win the French championship (a point at home to St. Etienne tonight will officially clinch it) and enjoyed a thrilling run to the semi-finals of the Champions League with the supremely talented Portuguese duo of young star Bernardo Silva and veteran João Moutinho shining brightly.

Monaco’s rip-roaring football this season has earned admirers throughout Europe and surprised those who have followed Jardim’s career where his teams have displayed solid and somewhat defensive football. But one thing links all the Venezuelan-born coach’s sides – excellent results. Jardim has left clubs in better shape than he found them every step of the way as he makes his way up the football ladder: Camacha, Chaves, Beira-Mar, Braga, Olympiakos, Sporting and Monaco. No wonder rumours are rampant that his next stop will be PSG, one of the Milan clubs or Arsenal.

 

2. Sérgio Conceição arrived at Nantes with a solid body of work behind him, having impressed in each of his first four head coaching jobs at Olhanense, Académica, Braga and Vitória Guimarães, getting his teams to play vibrant attacking football while obtaining positive results.  

Conceição coaches with the same passion and volatility as he played, frequently earning him admonishment from match officials, but most importantly, he transmits his fierce will to win to his players. When he was appointed at Nantes the Ligue 1 outfit were languishing in the relegation zone and struggling desperately for goals. Conceição quickly addressed both issues. Ten goals in 17 games prior to his arrival transformed into 31 in 20 with the former Portugal winger in the dugout, as Nantes shot up from 18th to 7th in the standings.

No wonder Conceição is loved by the players and the fans at Nantes, as can be plainly seen in this video clip on the club’s official Twitter account.

 

4. Rui Vitória had big shoes to fill when he took over at Benfica following the acrimonious walk-out of Jorge Jesus to Lisbon rivals Sporting. Jesus had guided Benfica to 3 titles in 6 seasons (the Portuguese giants had won only one in the previous 15 years) and two European finals.

After a stuttering start to life at the Estádio da Luz, Vitória’s team embarked on an incredible run of results (25 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat in 27 league matches) to pip Jesus’s Sporting to the Portuguese title and he followed up that success by retaining the crown this season. Throw in two commendable Champions League runs and the successful integration of a host of young players from the club’s academy into the team, and there is no doubt Vitória has proved himself up to the job of commanding the fortunes of Portugal’s biggest club.

 

5. While we’re in Portugal, time to give a shout out to Vítor Oliveira. “Who?”, comes the cry from those reading this who are not familiar with Portuguese football. The 63-year-old Oliveira has an extensive CV. Just look at the list of clubs he has coached =>

Oliveira is known as the “king of promotions” in Portugal, and it is a well-earned epithet. He has led no fewer than 10 teams from Portugal’s second tier to the promised land of the Primeira Liga, almost always abandoning the club straight away. And he shows no sign tiring of his very specific one-year assignments; quite the contrary. In each of the last five seasons he has led five different teams to promotion to Portugal’s top flight: Arouca, Moreirense, União da Madeira, Chaves and Portimonense.

Thanks to Oliveira, Algarve will again be represented in the upper echelons of Portuguese football next season, but there is still no word as to whether Oliveira will be sticking around in Portimão… or busy elsewhere plotting his sixth in a row.

 

6. In England, Marco Silva took on what was considered by all and sundry as a lost cause when he agreed to become manager of Hull City, eliciting the now infamous rant by former England footballers Paul Merson and Phil Thompson about his credentials for being given the job. Hull were seemingly spiralling towards certain relegation, and a difficult job became even harder when two of the team’s better players, Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore, were sold in the January transfer window.

Silva simply got down to work, achieving a series of notable results and narrowly missing out on pulling off a miracle to keep Hull City in the Premier League. The former Estoril, Sporting and Olympiakos coach certainly seems to have made a positive impression in England, with strong speculation that he will be given the reins at Southampton or West Ham, while a move back to Portugal to take over at FC Porto has also been mooted.

 

So there you have it. Six of the best of the current crop of Portuguese coaches, in a list that could easily be extended to encompass managers who have enjoyed success in 2016/17 abroad and at home, such as Paulo Fonseca (Shakhtar Donetsk), Carlos Carvalhal (Sheffield Wednesday), Pedro Martins, Nuno Manta and Daniel Ramos (Vitória Guimarães, Feirense and Marítimo respectively).

Curiously, the fad for Portuguese managers could conceivably lead to a glut of them duking it out together in the world’s most high profile league in England next season – Mourinho, Jardim, Silva, Carvalhal. The evidence is there for club chairmen and presidents when pondering over who to choose as their new coach. If you want success, you can do far worse than calling up a Portuguese.

By Tom Kundert

 

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  • Guest - KP

    As a Portuguese I find Jose Mourinho to be an embarrassment as a person & as a Portuguese.

    This is the man that boasted about going to the semi-finals 3 times with Madrid & losing all of them but acted like it was a huge achievement.

    He poked a man with cancer in the eye, he's alienated so many players, media members, members of his staff & medical team.

    He finished 10th with a Chelsea team that just won the EPL & is now in 6th place with Man U.

    He used to be the special one, not anymore. There was a time that he could get almost any player in the world to come play for him, he is so far from that these days I think most players would try to avoid him at all cost.

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  • Did Mourinho pee in your cereal or something? Mourinho himself also won the EPL with "a Chelsea that came in tenth", only it was the prior season.

    Yes, he has an ego, and yes, he can be prickly. But he is by far one of if not the best manager in history.

    Everywhere he has gone, he wins and barring Germany, he has managed all the top leagues. The man is remarkable whether you like him or not.

    All of his past players love him, they speak highly of him and they fight for him. Granted, he made some very big political mistakes at Chelsea, and it cost him. Man U has also not been his best season, but that does not mean he will never win anything again. I would not bet against this man, he usually proves his critics wrong.

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    This really is no surprise to any of us but its nice they get some acknowledgement for what they have done. The job Jardim and Rui V have done is especially important considering the squads they inherited when they both arrived at their clubs. Both coaches excellent at helping the young players develop and gaining confidence while playing an attractive brand of football. I would place both as potential Selecao managers as well in the future. I don't want Mou anywhere near the Selecao, sorry. It is no wonder many footballers have had career years under Rui and Leonardo.

    I would love to see Marco Silva at Southampton. I think that squad is solid top to bottom and he should be able to do good things there.
    As for the rant. In a league that consistently gives jobs to perennial scrubs like Harry Rednapp, Louis Van Gaal, David Moyes, Alan Pardew, Paulo DiCanio, John Carver they have no ground to stand on.

    All the above coaches learned and perfected their coaching style in the Portuguese league. Check out what Pedro Emmanuel has done at Estoril as well.

    I miss listening to the Conceicao post match press. Best guy to listen too as he often goes off on hilarious rants.

    I don't know why Vitor Pereira went to 1860 Munich. With his resume he should chosen a different club but hope he is successful. I miss that guy as well.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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