Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur
Still only 41, Andre Villas-Boas harbours the desire to get back into management, although whether that will be back in the Premier League remains to be seen. AVB’s most recent commitment though was away from football. Following one of his other main passions, he quit his role managing in China to compete in the 2018 Dakar Rally, though it didn’t end in glory.
One of Jose Mourinho’s disciples, Villas-Boas has
experienced tricky times with both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur but has won
honours as a manager in both Portugal and Russia.
Learning from a
Unlike many of his former colleagues, Villas-Boas didn’t
actually experience a playing career. He did his learning at FC Porto under the
tutorage of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. It was Robson who arranged for
AVB to begin his FA coaching qualifications, as well as to do some
observational work at Ipswich Town and how they trained.
At the age of just 21, he was appointed technical director
of the British Virgin Islands national team before continuing his development
under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. He was one of Mourinho’s assistants during
his first spell at Chelsea and also followed him to Inter Milan for Jose’s
first campaign in Serie A.
In October 2009, Villas-Boas elected to go alone, taking the
managerial job with Portuguese club Academica. It was a challenge as Academica
were sitting bottom of the table in the Portuguese top-flight. He guided them
to a comfortable mid-table finish and also the semi-finals of the domestic cup,
winning plenty of admirers for an attractive style of football.
In the summer of 2010, both FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon
were looking for new managers and AVB was immediately linked with both
positions. He elected to choose Porto and the 2010-2011 season was a dream for
him. They won the league championship by 20 points, conceding only 13 goals in
34 matches during the season. Porto were unbeaten through the league season for
only the second time in their history and there was also great success in
Europe. They won the UEFA Europa League; defeating country rivals Sporting
Braga in the final. The success made Villas-Boas the youngest-ever manager to
win a European trophy, at the age of just 33 years and 213 days. Chelsea liked what
they saw and having sacked Carlo Ancelotti after a season without a trophy, he
would be their next boss.
A sour experience at
It wasn’t cheap to get Villas-Boas. Chelsea had to pay FC
Porto over £13 million in compensation to release him from his contract. He won
all of his pre-season fixtures and managed to attract the likes of Juan Mata
and Raul Meireles to the club.
However, he preferred to use creative players and started to
alienate the senior core of players. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were often
left on the bench and weren’t happy with their reduced playing time, whilst
Nicolas Anelka left for the riches of the Chinese Super League. Despite a
decent start to the Premier League season, Chelsea’s form dipped in the autumn,
losing games in quick succession to Queens Park Rangers (1-0), Arsenal (3-5)
and Liverpool FC (1-2).
Under his reign, they did end Manchester City’s unbeaten
start to the domestic season but the pressure was starting to increase,
especially when the Blues dropped out of the top four after a lacklustre
display in a 2-0 loss to Everton in mid-February. A 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the
first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie added to the problems
and when the Blues lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion in early March, he was
sacked and replaced on an interim basis by his no.2, Roberto Di Matteo. It was
the first major setback in his still young managerial career.
Time for Tottenham
In July 2012, Tottenham Hotspur were looking for a new
manager after deciding to part ways with Harry Redknapp and they decided to
hire Villas-Boas on a three-year contract. He was excited and ambitious about
the plans he had for the club.
It took him four games to get his first league victory for
the club but a 3-1 away win at Reading started an improved run of form, which
included him becoming the first Tottenham manager to win at Old Trafford in 23
years. A run of five victories in six December games pushed Spurs into third
position going into 2013 and hopes were high for a top four finish. When they
defeated nearest rivals Arsenal 2-1 in March at White Hart Lane, they looked
set to achieve this goal. However, back-to-back losses to Liverpool FC and at
home to Fulham saw them throw away a decent points advantage. Arsenal clawed
back the initiative and despite Gareth Bale’s best efforts, it was the Gunners
who claimed fourth place and the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot
on the final day of the season.
The season had ended in disappointment of not achieving the
ultimate goal but the final points tally of 73 was the highest in Spurs’
Premier League history and was a record still held until the runners-up
position in 2016-2017 achieved under Mauricio Pochettino. It was also the
highest total of points achieved by a team not to finish in the top four in a
Failure to qualify for the Champions League meant Bale was
virtually certain to leave and so he did, joining Real Madrid for £85.3
million. Tottenham spent big in the summer of 2013 in an effort to strengthen
their resources. The likes of Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado and
Christian Eriksen were among the new recruits.
However, league form was disappointing and two demoralising
defeats, 6-0 away against Manchester City and 5-0 at home to Liverpool FC left
Spurs trailing in seventh position in the table. Daniel Levy decided to sack
AVB just over a fortnight before Christmas 2013. This came after intense
scrutinising of his coaching methods and integrity from several of the football
journalists reporting on the Lilywhites at the time.
From Russia to the
Following his English troubles, AVB tried another country,
taking over at Zenit Saint Petersburg, winning the Russian Premier League title
in 2015 and the domestic cup a year later. VfL Wolfsburg offered him the
position as their boss in October 2016 after the departure of Dieter Hecking
but he turned down the job for a lucrative position as boss of Shanghai SIPG in
the Chinese Super League. He spent one season with them before deciding to take
a break from management.
He decided to try his
luck in the 2018 Dakar Rally, driving a Toyota Hilux. A keen motorsport fan, his
experience didn’t last long, crashing four stages in and damaging his back. Two
months later, he competed in another off-road rally and this hobby is certainly
something that is keeping him busy away from the trials and tribulations he has
experienced in his football management career.