Andre Villas-Boas was once the hottest coaching prospect in Europe.
Having led Porto to the Europa League title at the tender age of 33, the footballing world was very much his oyster.
So how is it the former Chelsea manager ended up rally driving in South America only six years after his triumphant breakthrough season at Porto?
The ‘next Jose Mourinho’ arrived at Porto after only one season in management – a year at the helm of Portuguese minnows Academica.
He took over with them bottom of the league and winless in October 2009 and steered them to ten points clear of relegation and cup semi-finalists by the end of the season.
Needless to say, the big teams came knocking and Porto, to some people’s surprise, snapped him up in the summer of 2010.
Upon his arrival in Porto, Villas-Boas wasted no time in the transfer market and the business he conducted was nothing short of miraculous.
His first act was to flog Bruno Alves – the Portuguese Great Khali – to Zenit Saint Petersburg for a sizeable £18million.
With that money, and the £10m they received from Liverpool for Raul Meireles, he bought hot prospect James Rodriguez (£4.5m), Joao Moutinho (£7m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£3m).
But their talent wasn’t just acquired in the transfer market; there was already a strong base of talent that included Radamel Falcao, Hulk, Fredy Guarin, Cristian Rodriguez and Fernando.
By strengthening his ranks, AVB’s Porto became invincible, winning 27 of their 30 games in a remarkable unbeaten league campaign.
They finished 21 points ahead of their closest rivals Benfica, they also bagged 73 goals in the league as the South American duo of Hulk and Falcao formed a lethal attacking partnership.
The pair developed a telepathic understanding, with Falcao’s sharp running and classy finishing a seemingly perfect marriage to Hulk’s brute force and ability to kick a ball at the speed of light.
Their success was not exclusive to the league.
Porto lifted the Europa League at the end of the season, beating fellow Portuguese rivals Braga 1-0 in the final.
Brushing aside Sevilla, Villarreal, CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow on the way, the victory made AVB the youngest coach in history to win a European competition.
Porto also won the Taca De Portugal, Portugal’s equivalent of the FA Cup, to complete a brilliant treble.
The 6-2 win against Vitoria S.C was the biggest in the final of the competition since 1953.
Eyes bigger than his belly
Following his European glory, Villas-Boas resigned from Porto before heading to west London for a pop at the Premier League with Chelsea.
Comparisons with Mourinho, his compatriot and mentor with whom he worked with at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, followed him everywhere.
To many Blues fans, Villas-Boas was simply Mourinho 2.0, which made expectations unreasonably high.
After losing the dressing room’s biggest characters in Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba, it became a question of when, not if, AVB would face the chop.
They sat in fifth in the League, 17 points off top, and the axe was swung after a 3-1 loss to Napoli in the first-leg of their Champions League tie.
The following season, he was parachuted in to replace Harry Redknapp at Spurs where he oversaw the club’s first win at Old Trafford for 23 years.
The highs were coupled with equally disappointing lows, including a 5-2 humiliation in the north London derby. Swings and roundabouts.
Memorably, AVB guided Spurs to 5th in the table with 72 points, the highest points total for a club that didn’t make the Champions League at the time.
The big regret
With his reputation restored, Real Madrid and PSG came knocking in the summer but AVB stayed put, which meant for the first time in his career, he started a second season with a club.
A decision which, to this day, AVB admits he regrets.
After a 6-0 loss to Man City and a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Liverpool, Villas-Boas left by ‘mutual consent’. He jumped before he was pushed basically.
The offers didn’t dry up for AVB and in March 2014 he moved to frosty Zenit where he won the Russian League in his first full season.
The original football hipster had a wealth of talent at his disposal, including his former golden-boy Hulk, along with Javi Garcia, Axel Witsel and Ezequiel Garay.
For a short while, it looked as though he had found his home.
He failed to pip CSKA Moscow to the title the following year and left somewhat anticlimactically.
After a little TLC with the family back in Portugal and an uninspiring spell in China with Shanghai SIPG, it appeared his managerial options were drying up.
And now for something completely different.
The 41-year-old decided to swap the touchline for the racing line (yes, really).
The self-proclaimed petrolhead admitted that he always preferred life behind the wheel to the rigours of football management.
His uncle had raced in the Dakar rally and AVB outlined his ambitions to continue the family tradition, stating: “Racing runs in the blood of my family…
“It was my dream to do the Dakar rally one day.”
Villas-Boas fulfilled that dream in 2017 when he entered the race in a Toyota Hilux.
Sadly the occasion was a short-lived one after he crashed out in the fourth stage.
AVB was forced him into hospital with a back injury but fortunately he avoided breaking any bones.
Courageously, it was only four months before AVB was back out on the mechanical horse.
He entered in the Baja TT in March where he managed to finish the race, marking an improvement from his inaugural outing behind the wheel
The man once dubbed as one of football’s most exciting managers will continue his racing career for the foreseeable future.
Variety is the spice of life.
Villas-Boas is now back in the big bad world of football, managing second-placed Marseille.
After some time fulfilling his boyhood dream of racing, AVB has found his way back to the big leagues last summer and is running PSG closer than any others in France’s top division.
What a story it has been… so far.
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