The secret to Portuguese coaching success

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New Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha made a triumphant debut with a 4-0 win over Hamilton. He’s the latest in what is becoming a long line of Portuguese coaches making a name for themselves in Europe.

Pedro Caixinha

Leonardo Jardim showed just how clever this generation of Portuguese tacticians are when he outsmarted Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City over two legs in the Champions League.

Leonardo Jardim

Marco Silva already proved himself at Olympiacos before he began to give Hull City a real shot at Premier League survival. In a short time, the players have been quite impressed by the young manager’s work on the training ground.

Marco Silva

Of course the first to establish himself out of this football coaching school was Jose Mourinho, who brought to Chelsea a scientific approach to the technical, tactical and psychological side of the game. He recently rushed to give one of his players suffering from cramp a banana, with the idea that the potassium hit would allow him to see through the game. It was probably just a placebo, but it gives an indication of the innovative approach to football coaching took place in the Portuguese setup.

Jose Mourinho

The country has been producing so many quality coaches of late that the domestic league is filled with Portuguese at the helm. It’s an extraordinary achievement for a nation of 10 million people that lacks the financial power of Europe’s elite. It begs the question, what are the Portuguese doing to produce so many talented and versatile coaches that are achieving success in Europe?

A former youth coach at several Portuguese clubs reveals that this success is down to a mixture of great coach education and opportunity.

Rui Tome was educated in the Portuguese coaching system and has worked at clubs such as FC Porto, Sporting CP and most recently Sporting Braga as Under-19’s coach. Now working in Australia, Tome believes that Portuguese coaching success is a combination of education and opportunity.

“The education on football in Portugal is very strong, particularly under the guidance of Dr Vitor Frade at the University of Porto,” the University of Porto alumni said.

“People like Andre Vilas Boas were taught by him and a key to the teaching there is to focus on a systemic approach to football coaching.

“As football problems are complex, their solutions must also be complex, yet these solutions need to be communicated in a way that players can easily understand and that requires a thorough understanding.

“There is a saying there that goes, ‘if you only know about football, you don’t know about football’.”

The opportunity for Portuguese coaches really sparked when Mourinho began to find success firstly with Porto and then with Chelsea in the Premier League.

“Suddenly Portuguese coaches were being offered jobs around the world and the presence of a super agent like Jorge Mendes facilitated these opportunities,” Tome said.

Having the opportunity may be one thing, but being able to seize the day requires proficiency and the Portuguese emphasis on versatility and making the most of what you have helped them achieve this.

“Portuguese coaches may have their own ideas, but they’re also happy to adapt to the situation which they can encounter at a club – that is adapt the philosophy around principles.

“They will then ensure that those principles, or system of play, are followed in all the games aspects; attack, defence and transition.

“They will then focus on giving the players the requisite tools within these principles to solve problems on the pitch for themselves.

While Tome understands and is impressed with the current setup of Australian coach education, he does see a lesson from Portugal that is relevant for the game here.

“I think encouraging greater flexibility in approaches and focusing on how coaches can allow players to develop solutions themselves, rather than give them rigid rules to follow, would be of great benefit to Australian football,” Tome said.

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