Rui Carlos Pinho da Vitória (Alverca do Ribatejo, 1970) left his mark on Benfica. And not only with titles. He transformed the club and empowered several ‘meninos’ who have left a lot of money in Da Luz’s coffers.
Ask. What is Rui Vitória’s day-to-day like now that he doesn’t train?
R. I like to do sports in the morning, mainly play paddle tennis, and in the afternoon I usually watch/analyze matches.
Q. He was ‘cook’ before ‘friar’. How was the footballer Rui Vitória?
R. I usually say that the player Rui Vitória would not play with the coach Rui Vitória. He played midfielder. He was a coach and read the game well. The worst thing was seeing the ball flying over my head. I got to Second, but football today is much more aggressive. It is also true that I combined soccer with Physical Education studies, but I don’t regret it because it paid off.
I usually say that the player Rui Vitória would not play with the coach Rui Vitória
Q. As a coach, you climbed step by step from Vilafranquense to Benfica.
R.It was a continuous learning that prepared me to reach the highest level. In amateur football you have to do everything: I wrote the calls on the PC, prepared the videos, the analyses… Going through difficulties improves you as a player and as a coach. Nobody is born with everything done and all this path that I have traveled is something that I am proud of.
P. I imagine you watch a lot of football. What do you like to see?
R. I like to see teams that play well, but… what is playing well? Sometimes we focus too much on Guardiola, but Liverpool play in a different way and they are also successful. They are the two greatest exponents of two different ways of understanding football.
Q. And how do you like your teams to play?
A. I like to dominate games with aggressive football based on short combinations involving as many players as possible. Of course, without losing pragmatism. I want compact blocks and you can’t always play forward. I bet on automatic football, but not mechanical. I like smart players.
I like to dominate games with aggressive football based on short combinations. I bet on automatic football, but not mechanical
P. You won six titles, including two Leagues, in three and a half years at Benfica. Do you feel that his goodbye was unfair?
R. I was there for almost four years and when things end at the end of a long period it is always more difficult to accept, but I accept it naturally: all cycles end. It happens all over the world.
Q. What are you most proud of during your time at Benfica?
R. Of many things. First of all, the titles. We were part of the first time in history that Benfica won four Leagues in a row. In addition, we broke the record for points in the League and the stadium was almost always full. We also changed the club’s policy: we bet on young Portuguese from the academy who quickly began to shine and were later sold. I am very proud of all that.
I feel proud of many things from my time at Benfica. Not just titles. We also changed the club’s policy betting on young Portuguese from the quarry
P. You acquired a great poster at Benfica. Don’t you feel that he hastened to sign for Al-Nassr so quickly?
R. I don’t think I was rushed. It was an irrefutable proposal, also economically speaking. I wanted to get out of Portugal and experience other things. I had the chance to keep winning titles and we did. Going through Al-Nassr was a totally different experience that made me a better person… and a better coach.
Q. Then came the Spartak. You called it “the most difficult challenge of your career”.
R. It was a bittersweet, strange experience. I arrived with the idea that the club would win again and we went to the round of 16 of the Europa League. It was a big challenge because we competed with Zenit, CSKA, Lokomotiv, Dinamo… However, serious problems arose: no signings arrived and 7-8 important people left in the organization chart: sports director, communication director… Not like that it is possible that a high-level club can be successful in one season. It’s a shame because it’s a fantastic club with great fans and great players.
Q. You made Joao Félix debut at Benfica. What did he see?
R. Joao has a characteristic that is not normal in young boys: simplicity and efficiency in the processes. Everyone likes to dress up and Joao, on the other hand, had very well assimilated the mechanisms of high competition: he received and finished off on goal. On top of that he had high level technical ability and quick thinking to solve problems.
What I saw in Joao to make him debut is a characteristic that is not normal in young boys: simplicity and efficiency in the processes.
P. Joao is ‘top’, there is no doubt. What do you think is missing to be more regularly?
R. He has been gaining things that he needed, especially at the level of defensive positioning, he has improved a lot. Now, I think he needs to play in a more dominant team to play closer to the opponent’s box. That would make him a better player. In a lower block he can also make a difference, but it costs him more.
Q. Do you think you could fight for the Ballon d’Or in the future?
R. I don’t like to make these kinds of predictions, but Joao has the potential for it. He is an extraordinary player, different, out of the ordinary… but he needs to be more regular at the level of getting more into the game, goals, assists. The next 1-2 years years will be decisive in his career.
Joao Félix is an extraordinary player, different, unusual… but he needs to be more regular at the level of getting more into the game, goals, assists.
Q. You also made Gonçalo Guedes debut in the Champions League. How does he see you?
R. Gonçalo has a quality that we coaches value a lot. He catches the ball and starts. He has evolved a lot from a tactical point of view and has fantastic physical qualities. He is explosive and finishes well. He can still evolve further.
P. You also had Rúben Dias, Renato Sanches, Nélson Semedo under your command… How do you see Portugal in the World Cup?
R. First of all, I am proud to have worked with all of them. Portugal is in an ideal moment. It has veterans with a lot of experience at the highest level and young people who have already proven quality. In addition, they have a coach who knows the group well and a great structure in the Federation. I am confident that they will have a good World Cup.
Portugal is in an ideal moment. I trust that he will have a good World Cup
P. Let’s talk about two other of your ‘meninos’. What have Rúben Dias and Ederson brought to City?
R. They are both tops. Rúben Dias has given him the stability in defense that he needed. It is a high quality Swiss watch. He has all the qualities, offensive and defensive, that a center-back should have.
Ederson has a virtue. Not only stops, he also avoids the opponent’s chances by playing so far outside the box. In addition, he is capable of going 90′ without coming into play and making a ‘winning’ save. To that we must add his game with his feet. He is a midfielder in goal. As soon as he plays short as he breaks the pressure and drives the opposing team back with a 60 meter pass.
Q. Let’s talk about the future. He has coached in Portugal, Arabia and Russia and has sounded for Brazil. Where is it seen?
R. I don’t think so. I want to decide well, but I would like it to be in Europe.
P. Does LaLiga attract you?
R. I like the Spanish League and it has many attractions. It is a very technical and dynamic championship. In addition, the modest ones go out to play soccer, not to lock themselves up.
Of course I would like to train in the Spanish League, it is a championship that has many attractions.
P. How do you see the second leg of the Champions League semifinals?
R. I don’t see any decisive tie, not even Villarreal’s, although Liverpool are very strong. For its part, Real Madrid can turn the tie around. Madrid has the capacity to hurt any team. He organizes himself well and has a ‘9’ who scores goals even in the soup.
I don’t see any Champions League tie decided, not even Villarreal’s
P. What do you think of Cristiano Ronaldo? Do you see him next season at Manchester United?
R. He is out of series. Sometimes we do not realize the astronomical numbers it has… It is very difficult for anyone to match them in the coming years. I don’t know if he will continue, but if he does, he will perform at the highest level again and be the team’s top scorer. It is simple.