I’m heading to Portugal to join Vitória Sport Clube, or as I’ll be referring to them throughout the save, Vitória.
The club is based in the northern city of Guimarães and competes in the Primeira Liga, the top tier of Portuguese football. Similarly to the majority of Portuguese football clubs, they’ve never won the title as it’s been dominated by the “Big Three”, Benfica, Sporting and Porto. Other than a couple of cup wins there isn’t much history of note to take you through, which is good because I wasn’t going to anyway. It’s all about the future with me taking the reigns.
An important factor in me settling on Vitória was that point I just made. The club hasn’t had much success in the past. It’s open for me to take them over and hopefully add to the, currently quite bare, trophy cabinet. I’ll be able to shape the club in the way that I want to, and playing in Portugal will also help with that too. The relatively free restrictions on transfers in the country is something I’m hoping to use to my advantage in the same way that so many other clubs in the country have done in the past. Financial Investment in Potential Growth (FIPG) is a strategy Benfica and Porto, in particular, have used to great effect. You don’t need me to give you an exhaustive list but the sales of James Rodriguez, Falcao, Hulk, Axel Witsel and Ederson from those two clubs have contributed to huge sums of money being made by Portuguese clubs in the transfer market over the last 10 years. I want to ensure Vitória has a similar level of attractiveness for players to decide they want to join the club to better themselves and further their career. No nationality is off-limits for this, if they’ve got potential then they’ll be more than welcome to join the club. This is similar to the way I played with Stirling in the latter half of my time on FM18. It’s just what I naturally gravitate towards and how I enjoy managing.
I’ve spoken about it a lot since I finished reading it a while ago now, but The European Game book also inspired my move to Portugal. There’s chapters in the book on each of the Big Three, and it highlighted just how much they, and the country in general, have been at the forefront of player and coach development in recent times. The Porto chapter is about the tactical innovators developed at the club. The likes of José Mourinho and André Villas-Boas delivered unprecedented success to the Dragões with their meticulous approach to tactical periodisation, developed by one of their mentors, Vitór Frade. The Sporting chapter details what went in to creating Cristiano (they are the only club to have developed two Ballon d’Or winners), and the spine of Portugal’s 2016 European Championship winning squad (10 of the 14 players used in the final had been in Sporting’s youth system). The Benfica chapter focuses on Caixa, the club’s state-of-the-art training facility that overlooks the city they represent across the River Tagus. The Lisbon club are by far the most popular in the country, and across the former African colonies too. The Benfica LAB is at the forefront of football development and is investing more so now than ever before into developing and retaining youngsters, rather than selling them on. The stretch target at Vitória will be to change the Big Three to the Big Four, competing at the top level of Portuguese football.
The links are somewhat tenuous, but Portugal has been the destination for a few Scots moving abroad in recent years too. Ian Cathro first met Nuno Espírito Santo when he and the now Wolves manager were studying for their coaching badges at the Scottish FA’s famed Largs course. Cathro joined Nuno at Rio Ave for a couple of seasons, before they moved on to Valencia together. Cathro also has links to the Scot that is currently plying his trade in the country, Ryan Gauld. They worked closely together at Cathro’s coaching school before both joining Dundee United. Cathro has been derided after his disastrous managerial tenure at Hearts and Gauld hasn’t exactly been able to make the breakthrough at Sporting since his move there in 2014, I’m hoping to buck the trend at Vitória.
Another of the big reasons for choosing Vitória is that I had a few dealings with them during my time at Stirling. Dinis Pinto and Ença Sambú came from the club. Both players were signed for paltry fees of £425k each, had great stints in Stirling shirts and went on to be sold for a combined £30m. With me in charge at Vitória, I’m hoping players like that realise their potential by staying with us, rather than being sold early on in their careers. I wouldn’t argue with getting £30m for eventually selling two players though, every player has their price when managed by me. Talking players, another that I’d spotted entering the youth system at Vitória during my time at Stirling was Armando Marques.
Unfortunately when my scouts actually reported back on him he didn’t have much interest in joining as a very promising 17-year-old. After scoring five goals in just seven first team matches for Vitória, he was bought by Sporting for £9.25m. His stay in Lisbon only lasted for a season and a half, but he still managed to score 34 goals in that time before being snapped up by the mighty Real Madrid for £40m.
Aged 22, he won the Ballon d’Or after scoring 30 goals in 43 appearances across 2032. In my eyes, he was the best forward in the world throughout my time at Stirling. He scored 210 competitive goals across the three clubs he played for, and as you can see in the screenshot below, fired in 79 goals in 76 caps for Portugal too. A ridiculous return.
Other than one Taça de Portugal and one Supertaça the club has no other major achievements of note, leaving it completely open for me to shape the way forward for the club. I’m hoping to be Os Conquistadores of Benfica, Sporting and Porto with the target being to start the shift from Os Três Grandes to it being Os Quatro Grandes in Portugal.
I want to entice talented players to the city of Guimarães, acting as a gateway club to bigger things for players from the likes of South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.
I’ll be aiming to use my youth academy to bring through the next Armando Marques (and hopefully more like him). Ensuring our facilities are the best they can be, building a first-class coaching setup to help our players fulfill their potential, but most importantly, not undervaluing or underselling homegrown Vitória players.
They’ll be a mix of Scottish steel with Portuguese guile. I have an initial shape in mind, but I won’t be as tactically stubborn as I have been in the past. My Vitória team will be strong at the back, unpredictable going forward and be meticulously coached in how to approach each game in isolation.
Over the next couple of posts I’ll be doing an internal review of the entire club, from the playing and coaching staff to setting up how I want us to play initially and the training that’ll help us to do so. Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to get my FM19 career started, I hope some of you will join me and follow along.