Villas Boas set to emulate Mourinho
Villas Boas was virtually unheard of when he was appointed by Academica Coimbra in 2009 but less than two years later he is being compared to Portugal's most successful coach, Jose Mourinho, and with good reason.
In his first season in charge of Porto he has won the Portuguese title without losing a game and the 33-year-old's stock is set to rise even higher should he plot Europa League glory in the final against Braga in Dublin on Wednesday.
Should he do so he would emulate the feat of Mourinho who also took Porto to the domestic title in his first full season in charge and the UEFA Cup, beating Celtic in the final.
"It was a gamble, but he had the skills we needed. He made his ideas clear at the first meeting and took away any doubts," Academica's sporting director Luis Agostinho, who plucked Villas Boas from Inter Milan where he was working as Mourinho's assistant, told Reuters.
"Within weeks I knew he was headed for the top. He scores highly in every area I believe a coach needs to control - tactics, player motivation, fitness."
Like Mourinho, who he also worked with at Chelsea, Villas Boas's tactical flair was spotted by the late Bobby Robson, the vastly experienced former England coach who first came into contact with him while in charge of Porto.
A keen 16-year-old student of the game, Villas Boas wrote to Robson asking why he was not selecting striker Domingos who, by strange coincidence, will guide Braga in Dublin on Wednesday.
Impressed with the teenager's passion, Robson helped him take coaching courses and introduced him to Mourinho, who hired Villas Boas as a scout on his return Porto in 2002.
"Both of them marked me. Robson gave me ideas and I grew up around Mourinho," Villas Boas said at the start of the season.
Mourinho thought so highly of Villas Boas that he took him with him to Chelsea and Inter Milan. However, when the call came from Academica it was time for the young coach to cut his teeth.
Arriving in October 2009 after the resignation of Rogerio Goncalves, Villas Boas was faced with a squad bottom of the table and still without a league win.
The transformation was dramatic as Coimbra climbed away from relegation trouble to finish in 11th place and it was not long before Porto came knocking.
"We had already been approached by Sporting, but when his beloved Porto called, you could see Villas Boas' joy immediately," Agostinho said.
Villas Boas is far from a Mourinho clone.
His Porto side, the first to win a Portuguese title undefeated since Benfica in 1973, has more attacking flair than Mourinho's super-organised, pragmatic version that won the Champions League in 2004 and he prefers the possession game perfected by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
The dapper, auburn-haired Villas Boas is more softly-spoken than the polemic Mourinho, but a war of words with Benfica coach Jorge Jesus this season over refeering decisions showed he is not shy when it comes to controversy.
Despite reported interest from some of Europe's big guns he said last week that his immediate future is with Porto, at least through next season's Champions League, but winning in Dublin could fast-track him top even greater things.