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Friday, 16 May 2014 23:58

Marco Silva’s Estoril

marco-silva-20140517.jpgWinning against all odds

Under young coach Marco Silva, Estoril have experienced three years of unprecedented success in the club’s history. Colin Millar describes why the extraordinary feats of the manager and the club deserve wider acclaim.
Young coach Marco Silva departing Estoril is news that will undoubtedly induce tangible levels of indifference from the vast majority of European football watchers and connoisseurs. Indeed, few will even have encountered the club, never mind the 36-year-old tactician who has led them to unprecedented levels of success for the past eighteen months.

Up until late September of last year, I hadn’t either. A week’s holiday had been booked with my girlfriend to Portugal’s capital, and to my immense disappointment neither of the Lisbon giants of Sporting or Benfica had a home match during our stay. Desperate to sample the famous atmosphere at a Primeira Liga match, I trawled through the fixture list and one match jumped out. Estoril - a side named after the small suburb on the outskirts of Lisbon and nearby the picturesque resort of Cascais - had a home match against then-champions and European giants FC Porto.


Outsiders looking in tend not to have an in-depth knowledge of the Portuguese game. Ranked fifth in the UEFA League standing, it has never attracted major interest in the UK, partly due to a perceived lack of strength in depth but also because there has been no significant British presence to spark media reporting. No Portuguese football is broadcast throughout Britain, and it never imported a Paul Gascoigne or David Beckham to its shores to explode it’s coverage in the fashion of Seria A or La Liga.

BigThree.gifDespite this, the dominant trio of Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto are widely recognisable. Giants in terms of European football, they have had a stranglehold over the top division since its inception in 1934. Indeed, only two of the 80 league titles have been won by clubs other than ‘The Big Three’ – as they are referred to in Portugal (Belenenses triumphed in 1946, and Boavista pulled off a remarkable title in 2001). Go anywhere in the country and these clubs are impossible to avoid – replica kits, souvenirs and symbols of the three are visible everywhere.

By comparison, the rest of the competition in the country are minnows. Only Braga and Vitória de Guimarães average over 10,000 spectators per match, while no other club’s average attendance even comes close to the 5,000 barrier.

Paucity of spectators

estoril-stadium.jpgEven by Portuguese standards, Estoril Praia (the strict definition is ‘Estoril beach’, but Praia is often dropped in referencing them) are easily the smallest of the sixteen top-flight clubs. Their crowd figures are the lowest in the division and even at that it is wildly inflated by the visits of the Big Three, whose army of travelling fans pack out the 5,000-seater Estádio António Coimbra da Mota to the rafters. Of their twelve home matches against the other sides, they average 1,212 fans. This is 400 less than Accrington Stanley – who have the dubious honour of the lowest attendances of all 92 league clubs in England.

The Canarinhos (Canaries) have spent most of their existence in the lower echelons of the Portuguese league pyramid, a modest history with occasional and brief spells of giddiness in the top flight.

Marco Silva took over as coach early in the 2011-12 campaign, with the side struggling in the Segunda Liga. The 34-year-old had retired only that summer following a six-year spell as a player with the club, but he led them on a remarkable run which saw only three defeats in 24 matches and, ultimately, promotion to the top flight as champions.

On the up and up

The feel-good factor around the club didn’t stop there, as their momentum took them to an unpredicted and unprecedented 5th place finish in the 2012-13 campaign, ensuring European qualification for the first time in their history. Estoril were becoming the side that nobody wanted to face. They took the scalp of Sporting 3-1 at home before a creditable 1-1 draw in Estádio José Alvalade, the same scoreline they managed away to Benfica.

Estoril’s form was overshadowed by a variety of big stories unfolding throughout the campaign. Both Porto and Benfica were dominant from start to finish – eventual champions Porto (the Dragões) completed the campaign unbeaten and The Eagles’ (Benfica) only defeat came on the penultimate weekend of the season – a heart-breaking 92nd minute goal gave Porto a 2-1 victory in the de facto title decider. Elsewhere, Paços de Ferreira shocked everyone as they made it to the Champions League qualifiers by finishing third, while Sporting endured a nightmare campaign by finishing seventh.

Little Estoril’s achievements were therefore severely underplayed. It was assumed that their heroics were an isolated one-off which would not be repeated, particularly due to the departures of several star players.

Stars cherry-picked

StevenVitória.gifTop-scorer Steven Vitória (pictured right, a centre-back who excelled at both defending and attacking set-pieces alongside a lethal penalty success rate) let his contract run-out and he was snapped up by Benfica. Prolific striker Licá made a big-money move to Porto, where he would go on to become a Portuguese international. Talented Brazilian winger Carlos Eduardo also made the move north to the champions, where he flickered brightly on occasion in an otherwise disappointing year for the Blue and Whites.

The fact that Estoril retained boss Silva was a key factor in ensuring continuity as the club once again invested wisely and improved their squad. Centre-half Yohan Taveres was signed from Standard Liege, former Real Madrid fringe winger Javier Balboa was drafted in from Beira-Mar and Brazilian talent Sebá signed from Porto following his release from Cruzeiro.

It has been a trait of Silva’s to invest in players who have been released or rejected at other clubs, and to rejuvenate their careers. The Canarinhos perform at a higher level as a collective than the sum of their individual parts. There existed a palpable vibrancy and belief in his side’s performances that defied their status as both a club and a team.

Taking the scenic route

Despite this, it was more in hope than expectation when we set off for Estoril. The weather was glorious – it was late September but the temperature was peaking in the high 20’s, and the coastal train journey from Lisbon was beautiful.

estoil-casino.jpgEstoril itself is full of contradictions. Hosting a scenic beach front and leafy, peaceful streets, the tranquillity was charming and perfectly demonstrated why it is one of the richest regions in Portugal. Juxtaposed to this, the suburb is also home to the largest casino in Europe and is on the Moto GP circuit (though its Formula One status was removed in 1997 following safety concerns).

Porto were coming to town off the back of their unbeaten campaign – having won 26 and drawn 4 of their 30 league matches in 2012/13 – and had won their four opening league matches at a canter, while Estoril had played a draining match against Sevilla in their Europa League group stage only three days previously.

We acquired last minute tickets in the ‘home’ section of the ground – a term used loosely as FC Porto tops dominated both sides of the ground (there is no area for spectators behind either net). As expected, the 4,000 strong travelling Porto contingent made a tremendous racket throughout; resplendent in colour, banners, tifo displays and chanting which refused to let up during the course of the match. The hosts were represented by their loyal core of colourful fans – bedecked in the clubs yellow and blue colours. Numbering no more than 1,000 – they more than made up for their absence of quantity with undeniable quality in their co-ordinated fan displays, vocal backing and supreme optimism.

Four-goal thriller

As expected, Porto took an early lead as former striker Licá returned to bite the hand that once fed him – capitalising on a defensive error to put the visitors on course for what looked like another routine victory. Though, as what was fast becoming the norm for Estoril, they would not lie down and accept the perceived inevitable result. A cleverly worked set-piece resulted in them rattling the woodwork on the half hour, before they drew level five minutes when former Red Star Belgrade midfielder Evandro slotted home a penalty for a deserved equaliser.

The second half followed a familiar pattern – Porto displaying a high-level of technique and ability yet Estoril’s intensity continued to be a thorn in their side. Decorated Argentine midfielder Lucho González provided a delightfully disguised pass through to Colombian striker Jackson Martínez to re-establish Porto’s lead midway through the half.

luis-leal-20120926.jpgWith ten minutes left on the clock, Luís Leal (pictured, right) scrambled home an equaliser for the hosts after Balboa’s run and cross had caused havoc in the Porto penalty area. Leal had two further glorious chances to inflict Porto’s first league defeat in 18 months – but both were squandered in a thrilling end to a pulsating match.

As it transpired, Porto would not have another vintage campaign. They plummeted to third in the final league standings, exiting the Champions League at the group stages and finishing the season empty-handed. They had won nine of the previous eleven league titles but Benfica were unrelenting in their pursuit of the title while an unrecognisable young side at Sporting finished second.

Estoril conquer Porto’s fortress

Estoril went one better than the previous campaign, finishing fourth in another remarkable year. In their return league match at Porto, they ended the Dragoes’ astonishing unbeaten home record which stood at 81 matches, stretching back to 2008. Again, it was an Evandro penalty that settled proceedings, after the highly-sought after Eliaquim Mangala felled the Brazilian in the area and was given his marching orders.

It was another feather in Silva’s cap, and by this stage he was the hottest managerial property in Portugal. Unknown to only himself at the time, he would be leaving the club at the season’s end in search of a new challenge. He went out in perhaps the most fitting way possible – a 1-0 win at the home of Sporting.

Throughout his tenure at the club he demonstrated his ability to produce sides capable of overcoming those more blessed in finances and resources. It is comparable – yet much more understated – to Diego Simeone’s success at Atletico Madrid across the border. Assembling a squad of misfits and young hopefuls to confound the critics, doing so with a high intensity, unrelenting style of football.

evandro-estoril.jpgSilva’s achievements are made more remarkable by the constant departures of his most prized assets. Striker and top scorer Luís Leal, who got that leveller against Porto, departed for the Middle East in January. The penalty-taking Brazilian/Serb Evandro (pictured, right), who was the most influential attacking midfielder in the league last season, is also set to join Porto for a cut price fee of £1 million.

End of a cycle

Without doubt, the loss of Silva at Estoril will be felt more than any player. Consistently displaying remarkable managerial competence in his side’s tactics, his signings and general approach was admirable, especially when placed alongside his calmness and stunning ability to take each key player departure in his stride.

“Life is made ​​up of cycles. And I understood that my cycle ends at Estoril this season,” he said in a statement on the club’s website, a day after the season finished.

Silva is now widely tipped to replace boss Leonardo Jardim at Sporting, who is rumoured to have agreed to take over at Monaco in Ligue 1.

The chapter of Silva and Estoril has come to an end, but it is one that really should be recited more frequently and afforded wider acclaim. This was a true underdog story. What remains to be seen is whether or not the club’s, and the man’s, upward trajectory can continue at such pace.
By Colin Millar
Follow Colin on Twitter @Millar_Colin
Comments (9)
9 Friday, 23 May 2014 16:46
Força ESTORIL! Come on Yellows!!!!!
8 Tuesday, 20 May 2014 00:19
Thank you for making laugh. I was having a rough day, but your post made me smile.
Boavista has no business being back in the first division. If you look, it was a technicality that allowed them back. Even so, they don't have the squad or means to compete. They are jumping from mid table (currently 4th) in the Subida Zona Norte to the 1st division. They're currently behind Guimaraes B. If you ask me, the club has been done a disservice.

As for the Big 3, they're as such, due to being in the big cities. Whether people like to hear it or not, a lot of the Porto fans, used to be Braga followers that wanted to follow a winner. Please understand, I'm not putting anyone down for that. It's normal course of action. Sporting still has Portugal's 2nd biggest fan base.
The Big 3 became that due to their European exploits way back when and now. History still matters in futebol, and we have plenty of it.
Shame on the Setubal's of the world, who don't do anything to put fans in the seats. They are located perfectly, to draw from several different provinces, but they do nothing. That's not the Big 3's fault.
7 Monday, 19 May 2014 19:36
I didn't want to hijack this post, but I went and did a little digging due to a headline by ojogo.pt
I noticed that BdC seemed to have said that Sporting would be operating at a 5 million euro loss next campaign if they didn't sell any players;
"Apenas 5 milhões de prejuízo se não vender jogadores"
It almost seems odd, since they'll have guaranteed Champions League money coming in. Also, they haven't really spent on players and already jettisoned some of the high earners out the door.
It's a big concern, since Sporting had a squad of 23 players this campaign, but only used 13 players over half the campaign. Nine players were used in less than 20 matches and of those, seven were used in less than 10 matches with very limited minutes.
As an example, Benfica played 21 players over 20 matches, and two additional players played extensive minutes in 19 and 14 matches respectively.
If Sporting is expected to compete on all fronts, mainly European play, they need to fortify and deepen their squad. BdC's comments would seem troublesome. At the very least, I would like to see Sporting drop to Europa and not out of European play altogether.

Bubba, Benfica is used to selling players at the end or even during the middle of the campaign. We're a selling club, and our players are expected to grow/develop and go on to greater heights. Both Benfica and the players prosper from this.
Should JJ move on, I highly doubt it, it would be a bigger adjustment, but player turnover is bound to happen anyways. I fully expect Garay to go, and wouldn't be shocked if Gaitan, Rodrigo and Cardozo moved on. Foe me, I wouldn't want to lose Enzo or Marko, since one brings stability and the other could develop onto something special.
Where are the fans?!
6 Monday, 19 May 2014 18:56
Hi there great article but Estoril its not the lowest assistance in Primeira Liga:


Rio Ave, Nacional, Olhanense, Moreirense have lowest assistances.

And I dont know where you were in Estoril-Porto but Estoril Supporters (around 500) have a specific stand and they make a lot of noise. In your arcticle seems Estoril doenst have fans what is false.

Estoril it is the club that sends every away game a few fans and we have clubs that sends no fans.

Portuguese Primeira Liga it is consumed by FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting because these clubs are corrupted clubs with corrupted people, like Romania (:

In ALL european Premiere Leagues you look to History and see a lot of champions, here in Portugal we have ONLY 4 champions (porto, benfica, sporting) and Boavista, that was relegated to district division due corruption BUT the court process as expired and Boavista will come back to Primeira Liga!!! Our football it is a comedy with corruption!

Likely Jardim Departure/League Coaching Carousel
5 Monday, 19 May 2014 15:54
Bubba Zanetti SCP
I read that the reason nothing has been announced regarding the new coaching appointments is that work is being done behind the seasons on rescinding Ranieri's contract and that no announcements can be made until that is complete.

Most press stories state that Jardim already has everything set contractually to take over Monaco and the same goes for Marco Silva at Sporting.

I feel that the most important thing right now at Sporting is stability at the very top, meaning that BdC continues doing what he is doing and that Sportinguistas for the most part feel good about what the president and his staff are doing.

I appreciate what LJ did for Sporting last season, by all accounts he is a very good coach and he did a lot of work with Sporting's academy players (WC comes to mind). The turnaround from Sporting's worst season ever was very impressive.

However, in my opinion, LJ has a very odd career trajectory as he has a track record of leaving clubs usually immediately after one season.

I believe he left after one season at all the teams he coached: Chaves, Beira Mar, Braga, Olympiacos and now Sporting. I have a Greek friend who is a big Olympiakos supporter who told me that a lot of Olympiakos supporters and Greeks found him to be a tough guy to figure out. If he goes to Monaco, good for him to get the pay raise, and I am sure he will leave after one year and go somewhere else.

If Marco Silva comes to Sporting, I am pretty excited about it. He has proven to be a good, young coaching prospect who understands the Portuguese league and I hope he does a great job.

I think that Benfica has more to worry about if JJ leaves, as I think that will be an incredible loss. LJ brought Sporting back to second place, JJ won the treble, therefore expectations in the minds of Benfas will be higher.

Many Benfas wanted his head last year, but to his credit he won over his detractors by figuring out the concept of squad rotation and by giving up on converting wingers into left backs. After having won the treble, the team will now be in a state of "where do we go from here?". A lot of things can happen, (direction, contracts, etc.) and I think that Benfica will be in an interesting position over the next couple of months, should be fun to watch.
4 Monday, 19 May 2014 13:27
I have great memories of Estoril, and for that alone I wish them the best. I won't soon forget taking the train to the Praia de Estoril as a kid. For me, it's still a mandatory stop, even before Cascais, for when I go to Portugal. Sitting outside having a few Sagres while overlooking the ocean, is what the body needs.
In case people don't know, James Bond's Casino Royal was written due to the Casino in Estoril and not Monaco.

By all accounts, Estoril will have a hard time replacing Silva. He's brought them incredible success, even with the heavy player turnover. For me I would have liked for him to go to a Braga or even Guimaraes and see if he could resurrect those clubs first. Unfortunately, what can be successful clubs are often dismissed.
Silva has adapted well in league play, but the expectations will be entirely different at a Big 3. Hopefully he'll be successful, wherever he goes.

For all the hand wringing, Benfica needs JJ to stay. If for some reason he leaves after the Domestic Treble, I would prefer a European experienced manager.

If Sporting were to lose Jardim, as reported, it will be an incredible loss. Sporting is coming off a rejuvenating campaign and to lose your manager after that one season, it has to be demoralizing. Sporting should have been doing there best to maintain the "supposed" continuity they said they wanted. It just leads me to believe you could see a squad turnover, which frankly might be too soon. Don't understand letting Jardim get away now. It will be a step back, no matter who comes in. Unless you're nabbing a big name manager.
Recent History should send a message
3 Monday, 19 May 2014 13:16
Yes I agree Steve/Andre, he is a fantastic coach and staying and challenging for 3rd is a huge achievement considering many of his stars were bought by the big clubs so they could sit on the bench, good for them (yes that is saracasm).

Anyhow that shot aside, I think there is something to learn from Paulo Fonseca here. What is the rush exactly? Coaches nowadays are relevant until their 70's so why the rush to coach the big 3? Mourinho and AVB (love or hate them) are two winners but more often than not, most coaches fall repeatedly before they get it right.

That being said, imo, Sporting is the best squad in talent-age to adapt to a young coach. I dont fancy so much the new coach at Benfica who will have veteran players used to a certain way of doing things, nor the huge changes happening in Porto to be easy on whomever is going into those 2 spots.

Personally i would love to see Marco Silva at Sporting or Braga.

Steve/Andre not sure if you guys have been reading about Monaco, but the current leadership there has been stringing along Ranieri for months now, truly sad way to do things. I am sure Ranieri will be the last guy to know he was fired, GOOD LUCK to whoever goes to Monaco, better have a backup plan ready.....Dmitry Rybolovlev is a sack of licho.
Where is he going?
2 Monday, 19 May 2014 02:31
As we all know he has left Estroil after the completion of the last game of the session and assuming that he is staying in Portugal then I have had this feeling that he would be going to Benfica. I'm probably totally wrong but here is my thinking behind this.

Monaco - They have finished their last game but have not anouced the sacking of Ranieri

Sporting - They have finished their last game quite a while ago and have not announced anything about Jardim leaving

Braga - They have finished their last game quite a while ago and have not announced anything about a new coach

Benfica - Just finished their last game

So in my eyes Jesus goes to Monaco and Marco Silva to Benfica and this will be announced shortly.

I know everyone suspects Jardim is going to Monaco and Marco Silva is replacing him at Sporting but if this is the case then I just wonder why they are delaying the whole process and announcements.

Does anyone have any insights?
Great achievement
1 Saturday, 17 May 2014 08:39
Estoril have been simply remarkable in the last couple of years. The 4th best team in the Liga without any doubt. It's been good for the capital to have a third competitive team, the city is football mad, and with Belenenses staying up, this will be even more the case next season. To finish only 7 points behind a team with the budget Porto has is really impressive.

Marco Silva has been excellent, an upcoming coach of much promise. To me he really proved what a talented coach he is this season. Last season could've been some flash in the pan season that often happens, but to come back just as strong this season, especially after losing such big players last summer (Vitoria, Jefferson, Carlos Eduardo etc) was fantastic. They were the only team to win away to Sporting and away to Porto this season. Silva has done great for Estoril but he deserves a bigger challenge now.

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