Final adds to Villas-Boas' Mourinho comparisons
FC Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas may brush off comparisons to Jose Mourinho but a Europa League final win against Braga will put the young Portuguese coach on a parallel track to that of his predecessor.
Porto goes into Wednesday's final at Dublin Arena as the second Portuguese club to finish a league season unbeaten after Benfica's 1972-73 team. Villas-Boas now has a chance for a treble in his first season in charge with the Portuguese Cup final against Guimaraes on Sunday.
Porto is on the brink of success not seen since Mourinho's reign, when the self-anointed ''Special One'' guided the team to the 2004 Champions League trophy to follow up on a treble-winning rookie season, which included a UEFA Cup title.
The 33-year-old Villas-Boas can become the youngest coach to win a UEFA club competition but resists taking credit for Porto's recent success.
''I don't like to respond to (that) because people focus a lot of the work on the manager but it's also about the structure of the club and the quality of the players. We're able to mix that well together this year. We made this final with all this competence around us,'' Villas-Boas said on Tuesday at Dublin Arena.
''I don't see it as a one-man show.''
Villas-Boas - once the ''eyes and ears'' of Mourinho as a scout at Chelsea and Inter Milan - garnered interest from European clubs until Porto swiftly extended his contract one extra year to keep him until the close of the 2012-13 season.
Villas-Boas said on Tuesday he was not looking to leave the club.
Porto won 27 of 30 league games this season after Villas-Boas joined from Academica, where he took over last season with 23 games to play and relegation a possibility. He kept the club in topflight football with an 11th-place finish.
Former Porto coach Bobby Robson gave Villas-Boas his first chance as a teenager when he offered him an apprenticeship with the club's youth-team coaching staff. By 17, Villas-Boas had a UEFA coaching license.
''Robson was decisive in my first step in football. He was the steppingstone to what I am today - without him it would be impossible for me to be in front of you,'' he said.
He coached the British Virgin Isles at just 21 before finding his way back to Porto, where he compiled statistics and scouting reports during Mourinho's impressive UEFA Cup and Champions League campaigns in 2003 and '04.
Villas-Boas' philosophy is rather different to Mourinho's as the Porto native prefers flamboyance and creativity over tactical strategy.
''I don't approach football with only a tactical approach - you can achieve success through various means. What I like is to make my players give their most but I give them lots of room to maneuver,'' Villas-Boas said. ''I try to promote their talent and feel free to make the right decisions.
''I'm no dictator.''
Led by strikers Hulk and Radamel Falcao, Porto has scored more than 130 goals this season including 36 in the Europa League. To show it's long-term ambition, Porto has already inked Hulk to a contract extension until 2016 while Falcao is next on their list.
''He's a friend of the team and a friend to every player,'' goalkeeper Helton said through a translator. ''He's one of the best coaches I've worked with. He allows us to play with lots of freedom.''
Braga counterpart Domingos Paciencia believes Villas-Boas' success has as much to with talent as circumstances.
''He's a young coach, not very experienced, but he has lots of merits. The things he's doing at Porto are outstanding,'' Paciencia said through a translator. ''When you work with great players and have far more power rather than working for teams in the second or third division, then things are much easier.
''Football is really influenced by the moment. The moment is very relevant ... and I'm very happy to take advantage of this.''
The 42-year-old Paciencia is also carving out a piece of history with Braga.
Paciencia has helped Braga set 19 club marks over the past two years, including reaching its first European final after disposing of Sevilla and Benfica along the way. Last year's second-place finish got the small club into the Champions League, where it failed to reach the knockout stages despite a memorable home victory over Arsenal.
Now Braga has a chance to win just its second ever title and first since a Portuguese Cup victory in 1956.
''I haven't been sleeping very well when I think about us reaching the final,'' Paciencia said. ''It's a dream to come to Dublin and I don't want to wake up, I want to keep dreaming.''
Paciencia, a former Porto striker who Villas-Boas openly admired as a teenager, will be coaching his last match for Braga on Wednesday, with reports of him signing at Sporting Lisbon next season. He can become the first coach to beat a team he played for in the competition.
''If my performance as a coach overshadows my days as a player, I won't be disappointed,'' Paciencia said.