LISBON - Former Sporting coach Paulo Bento is seen as favourite to replace the sacked Carlos Queiroz as Portugal's national coach and salvage the side's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign following a dismal start.
The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) fired Queiroz on Thursday in the wake of his six-month ban for insulting anti-doping agents and has vowed to replace him before next month's qualifiers at home to Denmark and away to Iceland.
Bento has denied any contact with the FPF so far, but has not distanced himself from the job and is seen by the local media as the strongest candidate as he is not currently coaching at club level and could start immediately.
The coach resigned from Sporting in November last year after a weak start to the season. That followed four seasons in which he guided the Lisbon club to consecutive runner-up spots.
"He did a great job with limited resources at Sporting and knows the national setup well, having been an important player for Portugal," former international Joao Alves, who coached Bento at Amadora, told Reuters.
"Bento has the right profile and his personality is well-suited to the job," he added.
Bento, 41, was a defensive midfielder for Benfica and Sporting and earned 35 caps before going into coaching.
Portugal are second from bottom of Group H with one point from their first two qualifiers having lost 1-0 in Norway on Tuesday following a 4-4 draw at home to Cyprus last week.
Alves said that given this difficult context, the FPF should choose a coach familiar with Portuguese football, a view echoed my most Portuguese media commentators and coaches even though some reports mentioned Spaniard Luis Aragones and Mexican Javier Aguirre as potential candidates.
"I would like Luis (Aragones) to be the coach for his personality, his quality and his experience, but my personal conviction is that national teams are for the players and the coaches of that country, I would prefer a Portuguese," the country's most famous coach, Jose Mourinho, told reporters.
Mourinho, now at Real Madrid, has said he would only like to be a Portugal coach years from now.
Another Portuguese coach reportedly being considered for the job is Humberto Coelho, who guided the national side to the semi-finals at Euro 2000, and who is also currently unemployed.
"Obviously he is one of the options, with the advantage of already having done the job before," said Joao Alves, who played with Coelho at Benfica for several years.comments