Andre Villas-Boas has paid a moving tribute to his friend and mentor Sir Bobby Robson.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day in honour of the legendary manager, Villas-Boas said that had it not been for the former England manager he would not be in the position he is today, and would have pursued a career in the media instead. “I would be sitting in your chair”, he joked.
As a 17-year-old student of the game, with no playing background, Villas-Boas famously approached his neighbour to discuss the tactics of the local football team.
It just so happened that the local team was Porto and his neighbour was the manager Bobby Robson.
Asked whether, in his wildest dreams, he could have envisaged where that conversation would lead, or indeed whether he had any ulterior motives – the Spurs boss said absolutely not.
“I had no aspirations, I wanted to follow journalism. When I approached Sir Bobby I approached him as a fan; I was asking him questions about the team – why he was using this player and not that player.”
But Sir Bobby was different. It is often said that one of his most endearing qualities was his ability to listen to and engage with everyone he met, whether it be the president of a nation or local groundsman.
To Sir Bobby, everybody spoke the same language when it came to football, and he saw something he liked in the young Villas-Boas.
“There were no mind games with Sir Bobby. He was truthful in his essence and always had a word of appraisal for every single person. These are the moments I recall from him and I think these moments are similar to the public that see him from the outside,” added Villas-Boas.
“I was just 17 and he didn’t take it as an insult, and he opened the door completely. He told me that everything had an explanation.
“From then on we arranged a time the next morning for me to be by his car to leave with him for training.
“It was fantastic, memories that I cherish a lot.”
Villas-Boas went on to achieve record-breaking success at a young age. In 2011, aged 33, he become the youngest manager in history to win a major European trophy when he led his Porto side to glory in the UEFA Europa League final. In the same season he also won the Portuguese title by more than 20 points, conceding only 13 goals and going the entire season unbeaten – only the second time that had ever been achieved.
When asked whether he sees anything of his mentor, also a UEFA Cup/Europa League winner, in himself Villas-Boas said: “First before the manager comes the person, you can never change that.
"Obviously I try to have good values in my coaching, and values of respect, and I think there is no better than Sir Bobby in that respect.
"In all moments of Sir Bobby’s life, there was ups and downs. But he was always able to turn it around to be very successful. Many years in Ipswich, then the first success abroad with PSV and Sporting, Porto, Barcelona.
“His career is an example of hard work pays, and if you are in love with what you do you are able to achieve great things.”
Andre Villas-Boas was speaking ahead of Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day on Saturday 10 August 2013.
On the day 150 events will take place across the country as part of The FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations - providing a showcase of The FA’s work at grassroots level and giving the nation the opportunity to get involved with the sport.
Visit www.nationalfootballday.thefa.com for more information and to get involved in an event near you.