Kenneth Tan sits down with former Portuguese international midfielder Maniche to discuss the Special One, a 'memorable' debut for Chelsea and his future plans...
Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro, commonly known as Maniche, was a powerful midfielder who packed a mean shot in his day. The Poruguese international had a colourful international career, part of the team that reached the Euro 2004 final and a fourth-placed finish at the World Cup in 2006 – scoring seven goals to go with 52 caps.
At club level, he had played in a number of Europe’s top leagues in Portugal, England, Spain and Germany – famously winning the UEFA Champions League with unheralded Porto in 2004 and having a short stint at English giants Chelsea.
The now retired 36-year-old was in town along with four other Portuguese legends for the Singapore leg of the Tiger Street Football 2014 tournament and he took time off to speak to FourFourTwo…
Let’s just jump straight into this, shall we? You are one of two players (the other one being Ricardo Carvalho) to play under Mourinho at three different clubs (Benfica, Porto and Chelsea) … Can you tell us what is it was like to be coached by the ‘Special One’?
Mourinho is a special coach; he’s a fantastic human being and a real professional at every club which he went to. He’s the first manager who gave me the chance to captain a team and I was given that responsibility when I was very young. He always believed in my work, thus I was interested to create good things together with him. I’m really glad to have the opportunity to play under him for so many clubs. I’m sure the other players who had chance to play for him would have felt really privileged because he gives you the winning mentality.
Does Mourinho possess the attributes to be the next Portugal manager?
Of course! He can coach any team or any club in the world, simply because he’s one of the best managers in the world. It’s his decision whether he wants to take the national team role in the future.
You have won the UEFA Champions League as a player. Based on your experience, what does it take for a team to win this prestigious competition?
Yes, you are right. The Champions League is a very special competition, probably the best and toughest football competition in the world. To win it, the secret is to be humble. As a team, all the players need to stick together, to build up teamwork, to have a lot of self-belief that they can be successful together.
Since Porto’s triumph in 2004, we have not seen teams outside the top European leagues like England, Germany, Italy and Spain winning the Champions League. Will we ever see a smaller club winning it again?
It’s not impossible, but it’s really difficult. Of course, it’s always these strong teams which are the favourites because they have the financial capacity to bring in the best players. I think what we did at FC Porto was probably a very unique achievement. As I’ve mentioned, we were a very humble group. We were very much good friends outside football and we brought everything of that onto the pitch, that really contributed to the success which we had. Also most importantly, like any other things in life, you need luck.
You left Porto in 2005 for Dynamo Moscow, where you were reportedly unsettled and only played for half a season. Do you regret that move?
Sometimes you take a bad step in your life or your career. It was my first time playing abroad, and I was probably not too prepared. The structure and organization of FC Porto was very strong and I went to a club where things were quite different. For me, it’s important to feel happy and carefree whenever I play. I wasn’t feeling like that because I did not have my family with me in the beginning – that was really difficult for me. But after Dynamo, I still went to several other top European clubs where I really enjoyed it. I won a lot of trophies and I’m very proud of that.
You spent half a year on loan at Chelsea in 2006 and your debut was truly ‘memorable’ – at fault for the opponents’ first goal, missing a sitter and getting sent off all in 17 minutes of work. Do you think that was the worst ever debut a professional player ever had?
Yeah, I don’t feel proud of that moment at all! Of course nobody wants to be sent off on their debut. I just feel so sorry because I lost my control for a second and ‘damaged’ my team. I just want to forget that!
The Portugal National Team has arguably underachieved over the last few years, especially in the recently-concluded World Cup where they failed to even go past the group stages. Do you think they can rise again under the tutelage of Paulo Bento?
The team is rebuilding right now and there are a few new players coming in. This is normal in football; the same happened with France and Germany years ago. Back in 2004 (where we reached the Euro 2004 final), we had a fantastic generation but that’s football – there’s different sequences. Now we’re in this period where we need to face this fact and take it as a process. It’s always tough, but these changes need to happen. I think the fans need to be patient and I believe in the near future, we can be successful as what we have been doing in the past.
After retiring in 2011, you have moved into coaching where you assisted Costinha at Portuguese top-flight club Paços de Ferreira for four months last season. What are your future plans?
Definitely I want to stay in football and I’m taking this step-by-step. Right now I’m doing the level three (B License) of the UEFA coaching course and let’s see if any opportunities come along. I’m certainly not worried right now.