TugaScout is an English-language site reporting on matters associated with Portuguese football by freelance writer Alex Goncalves, offering the latest news, reviews and opinions surrounding the Portuguese League and the Seleção players based abroad.

Who is currently the best Portuguese manager in the world?

Who is currently the best Portuguese manager in the world?

That title, for many years, went almost indisputably to Jose Mourinho.

Having coached Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United over the last decade, the Portuguese self-proclaimed 'Special One' was one of the most in demand managers in all of world football.

Now unemployed after his reign at Manchester United came to an end, there's a chance for another Portuguese manager to take centre stage. 

So who could be considered the best of them all?

Fernando Santos (Portugal)  

One name that immediately springs to mind is Fernando Santos. 

While he could come across as something of an unorthodox choice considering his style of football, in a world where we are currently somehow shifting away from the importance of tangible success and instead judging managers more on their level of attacking, exciting football, Fernando Santos has stuck to what he knows best - and has continued to deliver exceptional results for the Portugal national team with a more conservative approach.

One has to ask themselves what they value more - what you win, or how you try to win. Jurgen Klopp is a perfect example, a complete contrast to the experienced Fernando Santos. Klopp has spent hundreds of millions of euros at Liverpool in just 4 years and has built a team that plays truly exceptional football that mesmerises both fans and neutrals. But for all their goals, all their footballing pedigree, Klopp has won nothing with the English club.

Fernando Santos, on the other hand, has focused on playing football in a way that is simply able to deliver results on a consistent basis. With somewhat more limited resources, Santos ensures every player knows they are competing for the greater good, they are but one part of something greater. Disciplined performances, built on a strong team ethos and defensive resilience, makes Portugal hard to beat, while the flair of the likes of Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo ensures they maintain sufficient potency going forwards.

For that, he's a mastermind of success when it's not expected. He predicted his Portugal team would win Euro 2016 before the tournament had even begun. It perhaps wasn't pretty in a traditional and obvious way, but the football purists will appreciate how Fernando Santos went about setting up his team and what he managed to achieve. After all, there's more than one way to play football.

Paulo Fonseca (Shakhtar Donetsk) 

Another name that could certainly be under consideration is Shakhtar Donetsk manager Paulo Fonseca. What a superb job the Portuguese coach is doing with the Ukrainians, not just domestically but in continental competition too.

Building a team with excellent technical ability by continuing the focus on recruiting talented Brazilians, Fonseca has helped construct and develop a team that is always capable of scoring goals, playing high intensity football that people enjoy, while also delivering the results that fans demand.

In that sense, he's ticking both boxes, and therefore, regardless of whether you think the 'how' is more important than the 'what', one cannot complain about either when it comes to Fonseca's record at Shakhtar.

In his first season at the helm, Fonseca delivered the domestic double, leading Shakhtar to both the league title - which had evaded the club for the two previous seasons - and the Ukrainian Cup title. The next season, he did it again - a famous double-double, toppling title-rivals Dynamo Kiev to both domestic crowns yet again, as well as defeating them in the Ukrainian Super Cup.

That same season, he also led Shakhtar to the round of 16 in the Champions League, finishing above Italian giants Napoli in the process. It was a terrific achievement for the club, who had before only reached the round of 16 three times in the last 17 years.

This season, he may not have been able to oversee their progression to the knockout round of UEFA's main competition, but they are in the Europa League - and have a chance of lifting the trophy come the end of the season - while they also sit top of the Ukrainian Premier League. Of course. 

Leonardo Jardim

Perhaps it seems odd to include a manager currently embroiled in a relegation scrap, but one cannot forget what he has achieved over the last couple of seasons. 

Two years ago, he was the man that led Monaco to an unlikely title triumph, winning Ligue 1 ahead of heavyweights PSG.

In that same season, he also took Monaco to the Champions League semi-final, a monstrous achievement playing with a team of players that were either fairly unknown or had slipped under the radar before the season began. 

Then, last season, after witnessing his team become dismantled, losing key players such as Bernardo Silva, Mbappe, Mendy and Bakayoko, he still managed to lead Monaco to a 2nd place finish in the French top division, as well as to the final of the French League Cup.

This season though has, by all accounts, been a disaster. After seeing his side stuck in a relegation fight, things were even worse than anticipated. 

It came after the sale of Fabinho, João Moutinho and Thomas Lemar, three more key players that were suddenly out of the team.

With such significant players leaving, Monaco's decline was perhaps predictable and, after picking up just 6 points from nine league game Jardim was, perhaps prematurely, sacked.

Thierry Henry came in and things, somehow, got even worse. 

The team, inevitably, crashed out of the Champions League, but to make things even worse they finished bottom of the group, out of European competition completely, not even finishing 3rd to qualify for the Europa League. It came after a humiliating 4-0 home defeat to Club Brugge, followed by a further two defeats to Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.

Henry ultimately oversaw just 2 league wins and suffered some poor defeats, including a 5-1 thrashing at home to Stasbourg. They also lost at home to Ligue 2 outfit Metz to fall out of the French Cup in the round of 32.

All this serves to show that it wasn't for a lack of managerial prowess that Jardim struggled to lead Monaco up the table, but purely due to a lack of quality at the club. They have since brought him back after just a four month absence, and after a few experienced additions, he has Monaco picking up some good points yet again as they look to head out of the relegation zone.

If anyone can do it, it's Leonardo Jardim. 

Abel Ferreira (Braga)

Of all the names on this list, Abel is probably the least well-known across the continent. The Braga manager hasn't been a head coach for very long - in fact, his role as Braga manager is the first time he's ever taken charge of a senior team, having previously only managed the B sides of both Braga and Sporting.

However, since taking the top job in 2017, Abel has overseen something of a revolution at Braga, taking them from "Best of the Rest" in Portugal to genuine title contenders in the space of a year. 

As an illustration of the impact he has had at the club in such a short space of time, the season before he was promoted to manager of the senior side, Braga finished 5th place on 54 points, 16 points off 3rd and 28 points off first.

Fast forward to the end of his first season at the helm, and Braga amassed a sensational 75 points, the highest points tally Braga have ever earned in their entire history. It meant they only finished 3 points off Sporting in 3rd, 13 points off Porto in 1st.

Still a way off the title, it must be said, but the gap was closed significantly in just one season, and their 75 point total was an exceptional achievement that saw them well and truly give rise to the "Big Four" in Portugal.

In addition to those domestic achievements, he led Braga first to the Europa League proper, in itself an impressive accomplishment, before then leading them to first place in what was a very challenging group, containing Hoffenheim, Ludogorets, and Istanbul Basaksehir.

This season, while they may have fallen at the first hurdle in the Europa League qualifiers, they've continued to go from strength to strength domestically, currently occupying 3rd place in the league, 14 points above Moreirense in 5th and 7 clear of Sporting just below them. What's more, they're only 2 points off Porto in 1st in a title race that could be going right down to the wire.

Braga have never, in their history, won the Portuguese Primeira Liga. But with Abel Ferreira at the helm, hopes of getting a first league title on the board have increased significantly, and it could well make him the best Portuguese coach in the world right now.

Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves) 

It's been an outstanding season for Wolves so far; while they have retained a significant number of their players from their Championship campaign, some shrewd recruitment has helped them to currently sit in 7th place in the English Premier League.

And while Wolves are undoubtedly an ambitious club with equally ambitious fans, this season has most certainly far exceeded the expectations of the vast majority who follow the club.  

After arriving at Wolves with a significant reputation, having managed both Valencia and Porto, Nuno led Wolves to promotion at the first attempt - and in style. They accumulated 99 points in total, winning the championship title, playing some entertaining football in their 3-4-3 formation.

And while his team oozed quality and class with the likes of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota in the side, his management was impeccable throughout. He kept players grounded and focused, always ensuring that his side didn't look beyond the very next game, failing to let panic set in on the odd occasions that the team fell to defeat.

He had his team supremely organised as well. Clean sheet after clean sheet arose as his side was built on the strength of the pack, defending together in organised unison, before countering at pace at any given opportunity. 

Things have continued in the Premier League, with Nuno saying all the right things at all the right times. Constantly acknowledging the importance of the fans and showing gratitude towards them for their support, Nuno has become an icon at the club already, despite having only been there for a couple of seasons. 

He's also shown adaptability, something that was perhaps lacking in his championship days; reverting to a 3-5-2 formation frequently in recent weeks, he's managed to get his side gaining more control in games, and this willingness to change shape has helped them pick up points against both the big sides and lesser sides in the division. 

If he continues like this, clubs across the continent will be wanting to get their hands on him - and some may argue he's the best Portugal currently have to offer.

Sergio Conceicão (FC Porto) 

Before Conceicão joined the club at the start of last season, Porto had not won the league title for four seasons - and there was a serious concern that rivals Benfica would go on to win a historic Penta - an achievement never seen before in the capital.

However, Conceicão immediately started to get the best out of his team, the likes of Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar revitalised under the former Nantes and Braga manager, and crisis was averted as Porto won the league, 7 points clear of Benfica in 2nd.

He also led them to the round of sixteen of the Champions League, getting his side playing some tidy attacking football while generally also making them very difficult to score against. 

This season, he's continued to work his magic at Porto, who currently sit top of the league and are into the Champions League round of sixteen. He also took his side to the final of the League Cup, where they lost to Sporting on penalties, while they are also into the semi-final of the Portuguese Cup. 

The only criticism you could perhaps have of him is that, while he helped Porto lift the league title, he's failed to deliver any other silverware which, in a country dominated by just four teams, has to be considered something of a disappointment.

Nevertheless, he took over a Porto team that hadn't won the league for years and looked far off the talented Porto teams in years gone by and has got them competing again, both domestically and in European competition. For that, his impact cannot be overstated.

Potential Portugal squad for the upcoming Euro qualifiers

Potential Portugal squad for the upcoming Euro qualifiers

Sergio Ramos' blasé attitude about picking up a yellow card against Ajax could - and should - come back to hurt him

Sergio Ramos' blasé attitude about picking up a yellow card against Ajax could - and should - come back to hurt him