AVB: What happened to the 'Special One II'?

The Portuguese boss has gone from being Europe's managerial wonderkid to a spot outside the central narratives of the continent's football

By Ude Ikenna Ezekiel

It has been close to three years now since 36-year-old Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas came to  European football limelight after winning the Portuguese league, the Portuguese Super Cup and the Europa League with FC Porto.

He made history by being the youngest coach to win a major UEFA competition in 2011, at just 34 years old. A few months later he was appointed coach of English giants Chelsea. Many of the Stamford Bridge faithful had the thought that perhaps the new 'Special One' had arrived, perhaps a younger version of their former coach Jose Mourinho.

It was not long before the English media also adopted this belief we well.

AVB, as he is fondly called, insisted that he was no Mourinho, nor the ‘Special One'. True to his words, his time at Chelsea never reflected his countryman's stay at the club and was, in fact, the worst in terms of results since the Roman Abramovich era began.

He was finally sacked three months before the end of 2011/12 season and was replaced by his assistant Roberto Di Matteo who eventually led the club to their first ever Champions League triumph. Few of his fans were of the opinion that Chelsea perhaps should have been more patient with him. He himself claimed that the club did not show enough faith in him by sacking him so early.

AVB | The Managerial Wonderkid who grew old before his time

A few months before the beginning of the 2012/13 season another of the EPL’s top four hopefuls, Tottenham Hotspur, offered him their vacant coaching position with a team that had the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kyle Walker.

He finished in fifth place at the end of the season, losing out to Arsenal in the race for a fourth place. Many Spurs fans were optimistic that perhaps, with a few more players and time, their team will be back in the Champions League.

He pushed for the signing of highly-rated players by the club to beef up the current squad at that time. His request was met by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy who promptly sanctioned the purchase of no less than seven top players including Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen and Brazilian international Paulinho.

He was sacked early into the 2013/14 season with Spurs looking unconvincing and lacking cohesion despite the 100m Euros spent in the transfer market.

Again, his assistant was asked to take over and under Tim Sherwood, the team has generally taken a step up the gear in their pursuit of a top four finish. What never ceases to amaze many is that following the initial triumphs, early on in his career, AVB seems to be tumbling down the long ladder towards the managerial scrapheap.

The big question still remains 'what made AVB successful prior to his coming to Chelsea?’

AVB & Mourinho | Friends Reunited

It cannot simply be the players, even the best team in the world could cripple in a few months without a tactically competent gaffer in the dug out.

Perhaps it was fortune? Well, it's known that in football and in sports in general, virtually everyone benefits from being a little lucky at times; from the curling shots that suddenly change direction when few yards away from goal, forcing the goalkeeper to dive to the wrong direction, to the cases of deflected goals and strikers benefiting from back passes from defenders.

It’s hard to rationally attribute AVB’s success in Portugal to mere fortune.

Another option may well be to attribute his previous success to the lack of competitiveness of the Portuguese Primeira and in the 2010/2011 Europa league. The players available to Villas-Boas at Porto, stars like Fredy Guarin, currently at Internazionale, naturally made the Portuguese giants favourites for both the league and the continental competition. He also, let us not forget, possessed the magnificent talents of Falcao and Hulk.

At Academica de Coimbra, his first managerial post, he successfully took the team from the bottom of the 16-team Liga Zon Sagres to finish in 11th position after less than six months in charge.

At Porto, he led the team to the league title triumph after finishing 3rd in the previous season. They finished the league unbeaten and over 20 points ahead of the second-placed team. Surely, it is hard to deny AVB’s  

For his next chance, and his latest shot at redemption, AVB has moved away from the central narrative of European football.

High-spending Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg announced that they have appointed him as their new coach to replace Luciano Spalletti. The news was greeted with pessimism by many Zenit fans, with some predicting that he would be sacked sooner or later by the Russian side.

Maybe this time things might just click like it did at his previous club Porto, but certainly the opposite would be a great disappointment on the career of a man was once hailed as the heir to Jose Mourinho, the 'Special One'.

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