The great Vince Lombardi once said that “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” This to me perfectly describes AVB’s career to date.
Even as a teenager Villas-Boas was driven by the goal of achieving a role in football management. By the time he was 18, AVB had already achieved his Uefa C badges and left such an impression on Sir Bobby Robson that the legendary manager brought him in as a trainee on Porto’s youth team coaching staff.
With this AVB had found his first step but with his commitment to the game it was certainly not his last. By the age of 21 he had become the technical director of the British Virgin Islands and sure enough his talent was not going unnoticed.
In 2002, Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of Porto and he wasted no time at all in making Villas-Boas his Director of Opposition Intelligence.
It was in this capacity where AVB was recognised for his knowledge and analysis of opposition tactics and personnel, Mourinho even singled him out as an invaluable piece to the success he enjoyed first at Porto and later at Chelsea and Inter.
So it was no great surprise that when he got given the chance to manage, firstly with Academica and then Porto, that he was a success. His teams were known for their attacking flair in what was a fluid 4-3-3 system. His Porto side in particular were a class apart, winning both the Portugese and Europa league in record fashion.
They played the kind of football that Roman Abramovich was reported to be craving at Chelsea. So it was of no surprise that he was willing to pay the €15million required to sign him.
He was given the task of revamping the squad but this was one project that seemed doomed for failure from very early on. Chelsea did not have the personnel at their disposal to match AVB’s preferred style of play and his efforts to enforce his methods left senior players, such as Frank Lampard, feeling alienated.
The greater concern was that his team seemed to lack tactical discipline and the substitutions he made seemed to have little effect. His stubbornness in the situation was matched by certain influential individuals in the Chelsea squad and by February it became apparent that he had lost the dressing room and was subsequently sacked.
Given the situation, it was undoubtedly the best choice for both parties. AVB perhaps had moved to Chelsea a season too early but the lessons he would have been able to take away from his experience will be invaluable to his development.
While he shouldn’t be judged solely on his time at Chelsea, he will be looking to redeem himself with Spurs. His appointment at Tottenham Hotspur, however, has received a mixed reception, with several fans suggesting Laurent Blanc and David Moyes as more suitable replacements, presumably with AVB’s Chelsea experience fresh in the mind.
As both Blanc and Moyes have achieved some success in the jobs they have undertaken, the choice made by Daniel Levy to appoint AVB was a brave one. Having said that, I also feel it is also the correct one.
The squad Harry Redknapp leaves behind gives Villas-Boas a very strong platform to build on while already having the personnel available to play with his preferred free flowing way.
If we look at the defence to start with, both Walker and Assou-Ekotto are solid fullbacks, who are good both going forward and defensively. The centre backs is an area which will need reinforcing. The retirement of Ledley King and the fitness of Michael Dawson leave Spurs in desperate need of a top class centre back.
However, this is an area which has is being addressed, with Jan Vertonghen lined up. His signing would certainly solidify the back 4, while allowing them to play a high defensive line. So it is imperative that Spurs work with Jan and Ajax to finalise this deal.
Tottenham’s midfield meanwhile, is without a doubt their biggest strength. In Lennon and Bale, Villas-Boas is fortunate to have two natural wingers who are comfortable running at players and have pace to burn.
While they are able to hug the touchlines, they have an abundance of central midfielders who are not only comfortable in possession but are more than capable in attack and defence. The biggest concern for Villas-Boas will be whether he can convince Luka Modric to stay or not.
He is the fulcrum of that team and he makes that team tick with his efficient play. There are similar concerns regarding Van der Vaart but the recent signing of Gyilfi Sigurdsson adds depth/cover depending on what Van der Vaart decides to do.
One area that will require AVB’s immediate attention is the strike force. At Porto he had Falcao leading the line who is significantly better than the options he currently has. While there have been links to Leandro Damaio and Loic Remy, a return for Adebayor could be the first move Spurs make given the successful season he had at the club last year.
All things considered, Villas-Boas has a bit of work to do in the transfer market but has the structure in place to set him up for success.
It has been mentioned that Tim Sherwood has been installed as the Director of Football, a smart move as it will give AVB the opportunity to leverage Sherwood’s experience at the club.
However, Daniel Levy will be monitoring the progress Villas-Boas very closely and due to the progress Spurs made with Harry Redknapp, the minimum expectation will be for AVB to return Spurs to Europe’s premier competition.
Only time will tell if he can achieve this target but I have every faith that they have the right man in place to do so.
Where can AVB take Spurs? Into the Champions League?
image: © Vladimir Maiorov