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Will ‘next Mourinho’ replace Klopp at Liverpool?

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Jose Mourinho was 41 when he left Porto and took over at a Chelsea side poised to dominate English football following Roman Abramovich’s takeover. Now Ruben Amorim, at 39, is the favourite to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Sporting CP coach Ruben Amorim is considering a move to the English Premier League. Picture: REUTERS, Daniele Mascolo

Twenty years ago it was Jose Mourinho. Now it is Ruben Amorim who appears set to move from Portugal to the Premier League with a reputation as Europe’s next coaching superstar.

Mourinho was 41 when he left Porto and took over at a Chelsea side poised to dominate English football following Roman Abramovich’s takeover. Now Amorim, at 39, is the favourite to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Other coaches have come from Portugal with huge reputations. Andre Villas-Boas failed to live up to expectations after following Mourinho’s path from Porto to Chelsea in 2011.

But everything about Amorim suggests he really could be something special, just as Mourinho famously claimed of himself in 2004.

“I don’t know if I am going to be good or bad, but that is what I am going to be,” Amorim told Tribuna Expresso in 2017 as he confirmed his plan to move into coaching.

He had just quit playing at the age of 32, after a fine career was blighted by injuries. Amorim has made his name as a coach at Sporting, but he starred as a player for rivals Benfica, the club he always supported.

“I can see myself coaching Benfica, or one of the world’s biggest clubs. Obviously, only time will tell and you need so much luck,” he said in that same interview.

Amorim began playing at Belenenses, the modest outfit from the Lisbon suburb of Belem. He worked under Jorge Jesus there, helping them finish fifth and reach the Portuguese Cup final in 2007.

In 2008 he joined Benfica, and a year later he was reunited with Jesus. Amorim mainly played at right back as a team featuring David Luiz and Angel di Maria romped to the title.

The following season, Benfica were overtaken by Porto and Amorim struggled with a knee injury. He needed a loan at Braga to relaunch his career and went back to Benfica, and Jesus, in 2013/14. Playing regularly in midfield, Amorim starred as they won a domestic treble and lost the Europa League final to Sevilla.

His career never reached such highs again because of injury and he wound down his playing days in Qatar.

Amorim has described Mourinho as his reference, but he admits Jesus – now managing Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia – marked him more than any other coach after he spent seven years under his stewardship.

“It is funny, because as a player I had lots of problems with Jesus, albeit other players did too, because Jesus is a coach who wears you out,” Amorim recalled.

“He is a real perfectionist. I worked with him for a long time and it is obvious that what I demand of players is quite similar to him, but I will not be a coach like Jorge Jesus, because our styles are very different,” he said.

Amorim, who appeared for Portugal at two World Cups, began coaching in 2018 when just 33, at Lisbon club Casa Pia, and his rise since has been vertiginous. He won the third-tier title there but didn’t yet have the necessary coaching qualifications andleft in early 2019.

Amorim really began his steep ascent on joining Braga, managing their B-team before being handed the first-team reins in December 2019. They were in mid-table when he took over in 2019 but he did so well that, barely two months later, Sporting swooped, paying his huge €10 million release clause, an astronomical sum for a coach in any country.

Sporting had not been Portuguese champions since 2002, and their supporters had some concerns about this Benfica fan.

“I am a professional and I am fanatical about winning. I know how big this club is. I played against them. I am not hiding my past,” he said.

In his first full season Sporting won the title, losing just one game with a team featuring the likes of Pedro Porro, Joao Palhinha and Matheus Nunes. Amorim, who favours playing with three centre backs and an intense pressing game, then took Sporting to the Champions League last 16.

Now he has them on the verge of another title – a second in four seasons for a club who had won two in the previous 38 – and through to the Portuguese Cup final.

Players such as English forward Marcus Edwards and Swedish striker Viktor Gyokeres are flourishing under him.

“I chose Sporting for Viktor when he had eight other clubs interested who all offered more money,” Gyokeres’s agent Hasan Cetinkaya recently told A Bola. “I chose Sporting because of Ruben Amorim.”

The former Coventry City striker has 38 goals for Sporting this season, just one of the many examples of Amorim’s successful management at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

AFP

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