Among the growing array of Portuguese managers working across the globe, there are few coaches currently enjoying more positive moments than Pedro Martins and Jorge Jesus in Greece and Brazil respectively.
While former Guimarães boss Martins has watched his Olympiakos side continue their excellent form during the latter stages of last season by making a winning start to the new Super League campaign along with emphatic qualification for the Champions League, veteran tactician Jesus leads the Brazilian Serie A with Flamengo and looks forward to a Copa Libertadores semi-final.
Olympiakos finished 2nd in the Greek standings last year, with an impressive run of ten consecutive league victories to close the term proving ineffective as PAOK were crowned champions after an undefeated season. Nevertheless, the form of Martins’ side was reason for encouragement for Olympiakos and the early stages of the new year have suggested the Piraeus club are in good shape.
As well as back-to-back wins to kick off the new league campaign, Martins led his side to a resounding 6-1 aggregate win over FC Porto’s conquerors Krasnodar of Russia in the Champions League qualifiers, adding to a growing reputation the Portuguese is developing in Greece as a specialist in European competition. Under Martins’ guidance last season, Olympiakos made headlines by knocking AC Milan out of the Europa League.
“I adapted very quickly here,” Martins said. “Greece has many little details that are similar to Portugal, be it food or cultural. I had no great difficulties in adapting because football is universal and our work tends to be the same everywhere.”
The presence of Martins at Olympiakos has led to a number of Portuguese players joining the club over the last year. While there were short-lived spells for Gil Dias and Roderick Miranda at the Karaiskakis Stadium last season, the performances of goalkeeper José Sá and midfielder Daniel Podence made the pair essential members of Martins’ side during their debut years in the team.
While Sá was already a regular member of Fernando Santos’ Portuguese squad, Podence recently received his first-ever call-up for the Seleção and Martins was quick to offer his assessment of the 23-year-old. "Daniel could definitely make his debut in these matches,” he said. “He has not yet reached the levels of last year, but I know he will.
“His free spirit makes him very strong in 1-v-1 situations, he creates imbalances on the flanks, he's improved immensely when he comes infield, but he's going to improve even more. But his ability to cause havoc out wide is his strongest point.
“I believe he is ready and I also think José Sá is prepared for this level also. He is a goalkeeper who is ready for this stage, he’s already had extraordinary performances. Also Rúben Semedo is probably among the options as he has had a fantastic start to the season, adapted quickly here and everyone likes him because he does a great job.”
High-flying Jesus facing disciplinary issues in Brazil, but will not leave over safety concerns
Jorge Jesus is enjoying life in Brazil with Flamengo, after a spectacular run of results put the Rio de Janeiro club in a strong position to compete for the Brasileirão and the Copa Libertadores. Jesus’ team now lead the Brazilian league after 17 rounds of action, while a Copa Libertadores semi-final clash with Gremio separates Fla from the South American showpiece.
As well as dazzling supporters with the team’s football, Jesus has also been publicly praised by several of his players for his impact on the squad. Earlier this week, Bruno Henrique celebrated his first call-up to the Brazilian national team, aged 28, and told reporters that “Jesus helps players to evolve; I’m living proof of this,” and now defender Rodrigo Caio had added his voice to the chorus of praise.
"He brought high demands,” Caio said. “In every profession, people need to be pushed, to go to the limit of their abilities. I see that in him. At first we even thought, 'Boy, it's too much. It's exhaustive’. But it's for our own good. Now, we take these demands positively, because we see that they’re important things which we take onto the field. We reap the results of this work.”
Despite the positive experience in Brazil, rumours continue to circulate that Jesus does not intend to stay in the country beyond the end of the year. Although the 65-year-old has refused to entirely dismiss the notion he could leave, Jesus is adamant that stories suggesting he would depart over concerns with violence in the city are inaccurate.
"I do not want to be putting out things I do not see,” said the former Braga, Benfica and Sporting coach. “But it is said: 'mister, do not wear a watch, do not wear a necklace'. But I do not want to talk about it, because I feel good here. If one day I have to leave Flamengo, it will never be because of that. Never. Because these problems, if they exist, I am there to fight them. I could leave for far simpler things.
"People who work with me know how I am. I decide. The club does not belong to me, it has a president above me, an administration, but I am in charge of the team. And when there is anything that is not what I want, I will leave.”
Flamengo’s immediate five matches are in the Brazilian league, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Avai, but Jesus’ position on the bench for next month’s Copa Libertadores clash with Gremio is under threat. According to reports from South America, the Portuguese could face a one-match ban in the competition for breaking touchline guidance during the previous round against Internacional
By Sean Gillen