With the Portuguese domestic season now officially over, some of the country’s top clubs have wasted no time in looking for new leadership. As it stands now, Sporting, Benfica, Vitória Guimarães, Braga, and Paços Ferreira will all have new coaches for next season. And at the heart of all of this upheaval is Jorge Jesus, who scandalously chose to leave Benfica to coach their cross-town rivals Sporting Lisbon.
It is undeniable that Jorge Jesus brought success to Benfica. When the 60 year-old coach took over at Benfica in 2009, the club had not won a league title since 2005. In his first season, Jesus won the league, and has since won the league an additional two times (including this season’s triumph). Whilst at Benfica, Jesus also earned the reputation for having an eye for player development. Players like Fábio Coentrão, David Luiz, Nemanja Matić, and others were transformed from promising prospects into world-beaters. This all came at the expense, some would say, of some of the club’s youth. One of Jesus’ chief criticisms was his hesitance to use players from the club’s youth system. Despite winning the Liga NOS for the second season running, Jesus was offered a contract worth significantly less than his current one, which was set to expire at the end of the season. Reportedly, Jesus was unhappy with the terms of his proposed new deal, and decided not to renew.
Let’s move over to Sporting, where Marco Silva had just finished his first season at the club. He guided Sporting to a third-place finish in the Liga NOS and to victory in the Taça de Portugal. Despite this solid accomplishment, Marco Silva was fired/let go just four days after winning the Taça. The club cited “just cause” for his dismissal, but many feel that the club was simply trying to pave the way for Jorge Jesus’ appointment. And that appointment came last week, as Jesus signed a three-year deal with Sporting. Marco Silva is still without a job, having been linked with the Sevilla post soon after his dismissal.
With Benfica now manager-less, rumors began circulating that Vitória Guimarães coach Rui Vitória would take over the helm. Vitória earned his place in the spotlight this season, when he led Vitória Guimarães to fifth place in the Liga NOS. During his time in Guimarães, Vitória drew heavily from the club’s youth system, largely because of the club’s shaky financial situation. Despite a lack of funds, Vitória built a strong team with a core of promising, young players. This is directly in line with Benfica’s proposed vision that president Luís Filipe Vieira has promoted in the last year. Vieira has stated that he hopes that the club can begin to draw from the youth team for talent, instead of looking abroad for cheap, develop-able players. The latter was Jesus’ favored transfer policy, and Benfica’s change of heart could explain their reluctance to keep him on board. Days ago, Vitória was announced as the Benfica’s new coach, signing a three-season deal.
Elsewhere, SC Braga head coach Sérgio Conceição has been fired, despite a largely positive season. Conceição led the team to the Taça de Portugal final (where they lost to Marco Silva’s Sporting), and to a fourth-placed finish in the league. Paços Ferreira head coach Paulo Fonseca is the favorite for the job, and is expected to be unveiled in the coming days.