We’ve seen his name scattered across every sports news channel and website over the last fortnight after his big money move to Stamford Bridge from FC Porto, but who is his replacement at the Estadio do Dragao and how will the new manager even begin to improve on last season’s outstanding success?
The fact is that new boss, Vitor Pereira, almost certainly cannot.
Villas Boas’ Porto side of the 2010/2011 season hold numerous records including ‘most wins in Europe in one season by a Portuguese club’, ‘most consecutive wins in the Portuguese league’ and ‘most points in a 30-game Portuguese league season’.
This is all coupled with the fact that they became only the second side in Portuguese League history to go through a complete season unbeaten. Staggering stuff.
Yes, FC Porto got a huge pay-out of £13.8 Million for Villas Boas’ departure, but surely this is not worth coughing up one of the most promising young managers in European football.
The Portuguese outfit must also face the possibility of losing handful of their most valuable players, including the likes of Falcao who scored 39 goals in 42 appearances for the Portuguese Champions last season, and the powerful Brazilian Giavinaldo Hulk.
It’s strikingly clear that Pereira has an extremely tough job on his hands and it’s difficult to predict whether the Porto board will have complete faith in their new manager if the season starts slowly at the Dragons’ Den.
Pereira endured a low-profile playing career in Portugal before progressing on to junior level coaching. He moved from this to senior management with a number of clubs including A.D. Sanjoanense and S.C. Espinho before spending two seasons with C.D. Santa Clara in Liga de Honra.
In 2010, Pereira moved to the Assistant Manager role at FC Porto until just recently when he took over from the departing Andre Villas-Boas.
It’s fair to say that Pereira has good knowledge of Portuguese football and the belief shown by the board to appoint him as the new manager shows that there is confidence in their new man. Nonetheless, only time will tell if the legacy left behind by Villas-Boas will live on successfully or crash and burn in his memory.
Benfica and Sporting CP will be the two teams that will look to pounce on a Porto side starting a new era without Villas-Boas, but both will have to dramatically improve on last season’s performances to trump what is still a very strong and ambitious Porto squad.
What also must be remembered is that Porto have only surrendered the Primeira Liga title twice in the last nine seasons with the trophy going to Benfica on both occasions in 2005 and 2010.
Benfica were the closest challengers to Porto as well last term, finishing second, but a massive 21-point gap showed Villa- Boas’ side’s dominance throughout the season. Behind Benfica and a massive 36 points behind Porto, was Sporting Lisbon.
What remains to be seen is whether the loss of Villas-Boas will minimise that huge gulf between Porto and the rest of the challengers or whether new talent and belief will spring from the beginning of Pereira’s managerial adventure in Porto.
The likes of Fredy Guarin, Falcao, Fernando Belluschi and Giavinaldo Hulk still remain at the 50,000 capacity Estádio Do Dragão but for how long? No-one is completely sure.
If Pereira can convince the stars of last season’s campaign to remain at Porto, it will be bad news for the rest of the Portuguese league and the continued dominance should continue.
However, if Falcao, who is one of the speculated players expected to leave Porto- indeed, for Chelsea- there is a chance that team chemistry and belief could be affected and end in a downward spiral for Pereira’s men.
Like most stories in this ever changing pantomime of modern football, only time will tell and you can guarantee that there is still much more drama left in this Portuguese fairytale.