Ranking the top 14 Portuguese managers based on last season - who was the best?
Portuguese managers have continued to see their stock rise in recent year and, having witnessed yet another league season draw to a close, the time of reflection is well and truly upon us. In what was a season of mixed success for the nation's coaches, we look at some of the current most prestigious Portuguese managers in the game and look back at - and grade - how they got on.
As you may recall, we did the same thing last year - and you can view last year’s rankings via this link here.
But right now, it’s all about the more recent success, and here we are simply reviewing last season and last season alone. In order from worst performer to best performer, here is how we rank this season’s Portuguese managers:
14. Miguel Cardoso (Nantes and Celta Vigo) - 2/10
A pretty disastrous campaign for Miguel Cardoso, who has often been considered one of Portugal’s highly exciting young managers. It’s actually difficult to imagine that it could have gone any worse.
After being appointed the Nantes head coach at the beginning of the season, the 27-year old manager lasted just 8 league matches before being relieved of his duties under 4 months after his appointment.
It came after Nantes accumulated just 6 points in their first 8 league outings, replacing him with the experienced Vahid Halilhodzic instead.
He wasn’t out of work for long though, and actually, just over a month after his departure from Ligue 1, he landed a job in the Spanish La Liga, taking charge of Celta Vigo, who were sitting relatively comfortably in the table, occupying 10th position in the Spanish top flight.
However, by the time he was sacked again just 4 months later, Celta Vigo had slipped down the table into 17th, sitting only just above the drop zone following 8 losses in his final 10 games in charge. Another pretty disastrous managerial stint.
Celta Vigo went on to survive relegation by 4 points, but it was a close call, especially considering their comfortable position in the table when he first took charge.
And Cardoso is already back in the dugout too, having recently been appointed the next manager of AEK Athens. He’ll be hoping for better fortune this time around.
13. Leonardo Jardim (Monaco) - 3.5/10
2017-18 season: 6/10
After a relatively unspectacular season last campaign with Monaco which ultimately ended trophyless, this season was on the verge of an absolute disaster for Jardim and his side.
It wasn’t a complete shock though; Jardim at the start of the season made no secret of the fact that he though Monaco were really going to struggle having lost so many key players in such a short space of time, as well as their director of football Luis Campos, who was the mastermind of many of Monaco’s brilliant signings. But it was particularly bad, and Jardim was ultimately sacked on 11th October after earning just 6 points from 9 league games.
After his departure, club icon Thierry Henry was the man brought in to replace the Portuguese coach, hoping that the Frenchman would be able to turn Monaco’s fortunes around.
However, his spell in charge proved to be equally unproductive; after 12 league matches, 7 defeats and just 9 points, Henry’s reign at Monaco came to an end after a humiliating 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Strasbourg.
Sitting 19th in the league standing and at serious risk of suffering relegation, Monaco turned back to Jardim. And he had the exact impact Monaco were looking for.
In his first 11 matches back at the club, Monaco suffered just 2 defeats, and more crucially picked up 17 points to move them to 16th, comfortably outside the relegation zone.
There was something of a tense end to the season, where a run of 7 games without a win before the penultimate game of the season meant Monaco were still looking over their shoulder, but ultimately Jardim got the job done, Monaco finishing in 17th, 3 points above automatic relegation.
The rating may seem relatively generous to some, but when you see how much Henry struggled when he came in and how Jardim eventually guided the club to safety, a rating of 3.5 seems justified.
12. Jose Mourinho (Manchester United) - 3.5/10
2017-18 season: 6/10.
Fair to say Mourinho had a disappointing final season in charge of Manchester United.
Sitting in 6th place when he was fired just before Christmas, United fans were far from pleased with what they were seeing from their team - less than spectacular football, poor results, growing murmurs of discontent between players and manager. The outcome everyone expected eventually arrived.
Solskjaer was the man to replace him - and it looked like a perfect match. After a run of 12 league games without defeat - 10 of which ended in victory - the inexperienced Solksjaer was almost making a mockery of his predecessor with how easy he was seeming to find it.
By the end of the season, however, it became clear that that was nothing short of a honeymoon period, and United went back to struggling - arguably to an even larger extent than under Mourinho.
Ending the season with just 2 wins in their final 12 outings in all competitions, United were knocked out of the Champions League after back-to-back defeats to Barcelona, as well as the FA Cup after a 2-1 loss to Wolves, while they also suffered defeat against Cardiff on the final day of the season, failed to beat already-relegated Huddersfield a week earlier and suffered a 4-0 humbling against Everton.
With this in mind, Mourinho’s reign at United looks a fraction more respectable; he kept saying that finishing 2nd with this United team was one of his greatest achievements in management - and perhaps he was right.
With a less than spectacular squad, 6th place was disappointing but far from disastrous, and he still managed to get Manchester United out of their Champions League group. A rating of 3.5 is down from last year, where we gave him a 6 out of ten.
11. Rui Vitoria (Benfica and Al-Nassr) - 4.5/10
2017-18 season: 3.5/10.
Disappointing season with Benfica, there’s no escaping that. Leaving Benfica adrift of league leaders Porto, it looked like this was going to be a second season in a row that Benfica would fail to win the Primeira Liga.
After back-to-back defeats against Belenenses and Moreirense that left Benfica 5th in the table after 9 gameweeks was then followed up by an uninspiring 3-1 win over Tondela, Vitoria’s sacking was all but confirmed.
Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira himself admitted that reports of Vitoria’s sacking weren’t wide of the mark, but ultimately upon sleeping on the decision, he changed his mind, stating that upon reflection he felt Vitoria was the right man for the job - and even said that he’d stay as manager until the end of the season.
However, after a run of 5 league wins in a row - including an impressive 6-2 victory over Braga - was abruptly ended with a 2-0 loss to Portimonense, Vitoria asked to be relieved of his duties, and he left the club sitting 4th in the table.
The disappointing league campaign was mirrored by an equally underwhelming Champions League showing, where Benfica failed to qualify from their group, instead finishing in 3rd place behind Bayern Munich and eventual semi-finalists Ajax and slipping into the Europa League. Most notable was that devastating 5-1 defeat at the hands of the German champions.
Vitoria’s season was salvaged somewhat, thanks to the success he had in Saudi Arabia, lifting the league title with Al-Nassr. For that, he’s pushed up the rankings.
10. Luis Castro (Vitoria Guimaraes) - 5/10
Vitoria Guimaraes finished as high as they possibly could have done this season, finishing as “Best of the Rest” behind the big 4 of Benfica, Porto, Sporting and Braga.
And yet there was something distinctly underwhelming about their season as a whole.
With a talented squad at his disposal containing the likes of Toze, Davidson, Andre Andre and co, a lot was anticipated from this team to cruise to a 5th place finish - and perhaps even start to push the likes of Braga and Sporting a little closer for a top 4 spot.
That, though, didn’t really happen and, up until the last gameweek, it was actually the highly unfancied Moreirense that were occupying that 5th place position. It was only a last-day win over Moreirense that gave Guimaraes their place as best of the rest, finishing above their opponents in the standings only by virtue of head-to-head record.
The 52 points they mustered over the course of the season was respectable although also certainly nothing to get excited about, and indeed they ended up 15 points behind 4th-placed Braga in the league - compare that to 12th placed Portimonense, who only had 12 point fewer than Guimaraes.
There were some great days for the fans to remember; that epic comeback from 2-0 to beat Porto 3-2 away form home on the third gameweek, as well as earning a draw against Porto in the reverse fixture. But ultimately, it was nothing more than a decent season which failed to exceed any expectations.
9. Abel Ferreira (Braga) - 5/10
2017-18 season: 9/10.
After the brilliant campaign Braga had in the 2017-18 season, where they produced a spectacular showing in the league and an impressive Europa League campaign to go with it, Abel Ferreira and his side failed to build on that relative success, and the optimism that built up was quickly quashed.
Early on, it was quite easy to see this season wasn’t going to be able to compare to the last, with Braga being knocked out of the Europa League second qualifying round against Ukrainian club Zorya; contrast that with last year where they made it to the Europa League proper, topping a tricky group containing Hoffenheim, Istanbul Basaksehir and Ludogorets before being knocked out by Marseille in the round of 32 and you see how disappointment set in early for the Braga faithful.
In the league, it was far from disastrous, and really, looking at budgets alone, the fact that Braga again managed to finish closer to Sporting in 3rd than Guimaraes in 5th speaks volumes of how well Braga are doing at punching well above their weight.
But we’ve come to expect it; Braga are now the established 4th best team in the league and, if they want to progress further, they need to close the gap further on the top 3 and look to break into it.
Instead, Braga really went backwards. In that phenomenal 2017-18 season, for example, Braga finished on an extraordinary 75 points - the best return Braga have ever had in the Portuguese top flight. It meant they finished just 3 points behind Sporting, and only 13 points behind eventual champions Porto, while they also ended up accumulating 24 points more than 5th-placed Rio Ave.
This season, though, Braga only amassed 67 points, 8 fewer than last season, and the gap between them and the top 3 extended while their distance from 5th was reduced to just 15 points.
So a relatively average season for Braga in the end. At the same time though, they did reach the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, although with no trophy, no Europa League run and no ground made up on the “Big Three”, you could say it was underwhelming even if not underachieving.
8. Sergio Conceicao (FC Porto) - 6/10
2017-18 season: 8/10.
Now this is quite harsh. It was another very strong season for Porto on all fronts - but ultimately it was a season of so near yet so far.
While Porto won the league last year, they couldn’t retain the biggest prize Portuguese football has to offer, and instead finished as runners-up, missing out to arch-rivals Benfica, who finished 2 points ahead.
That becomes more disappointing when you think that Porto were well ahead of their opponents midway through the season, at one point building a 6 point lead at the top of the table.
They also got to the final of BOTH the Portuguese League Cup and the Portuguese Cup - but in both they ultimately lost to Sporting, on both occasions on penalties.
Their run to the Champions League quarter final was really impressive, although the fact they were eventually dismantled by Liverpool over both legs took the gloss off the achievement.
7. Marco Silva (Everton) - 6.5/10
2017-18 season: 5/10.
An interesting season for the former Sporting and Olympiakos manager. After finally getting that long-awaited move to Everton last summer, it was a tricky start for the Portuguese coach.
One win in his first 6 Premier League games left Everton 12th in the early stages, immediately before an excellent run of 5 wins in seven dragged them back up to 6th, where they would have been hoping to remain until the end of the season.
However, another incredibly poor run of just 3 wins in 14 games - of which nine were defeats - saw Everton’s early season work undone as they slid to 8th in the standings by gameweek 27, with those behind them rapidly closing the gap and leaving Everton looking over their shoulder as the final stretch of the season approached.
With growing murmurings of discontent from the Everton faithful, it looked as if Silva could end up losing his job, which would have seen his third spell in England cut short after he walked away from relegated Hull and was sacked by Watford after a poor run of form.
However, Marco Silva masterminded a turnaround in the clubs fortunes at just the right time, where everything finally started to fall into place to give Everton a brilliant end of season run-in.
Five wins in eight may not sound particularly impressive, but clean sheets in 6 of those matches showed that he seemed to have finally rectified the one part of his game that had continued to be questioned - defending.
Indeed, something that has always been a source of criticism for Marco Silva teams is their vulnerability at the back. The fact that he then saw his side keep 8 clean sheets in his final 11 league games of the season against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham away showed that he was more than capable of constructing a side that was strong at the back while maintaining their attacking intent.
Ultimately, Everton earned an 8th-place finish in the Premier League on 54 points, getting some impressive results along the way, including a 0-0 draw with free-scoring arch-rivals Liverpool, a 4-0 dismantling of Manchester United, a 1-0 victory over Arsenal, a 2-0 win over Chelsea (as well as drawing the reverse fixture), and a 2-2 draw with Tottenham at the new White Hart Lane.
Fair to say, therefore, that Marco Silva got fans back onside, with the Everton faithful now optimistic for the new season.
He is marked down though for also enduring some disappointing results in the league, as well as a poor showing in both the FA and EFL Cup.
6. Pedro Martins (Olympiakos) - 7/10
A good first season in Greece for Pedro Martins all things considered. On paper, you may think that it was a little underwhelming, what with Olympiakos failing to lift the title after finishing 5 points behind eventual champions AEK Athens. Many would think, from the past decade, that Olympiakos winning the league is something of a foregone conclusion.
However, in actual fact last season Olympiakos only managed a 3rd place finish - earning just 57 points from 30 games. That left them 7 points behind 2nd-placed PAOK, and a further 13 points off eventual champions AEK, who earned 70 points overall.
Skip forward to this season, Pedro Martins’ first in charge, and you see that huge improvements were made. They may not have won the league, but they finished a comfortable 2nd, 18 points above nearest challengers AEK Athens on 75 points - a tally that was also 18 points more than last season, and would have been more than enough to see them win the league last campaign too.
But the season was still far from perfect. Like the season earlier, they only made it to the quarter final of the Greek Cup, under-performing yet again in the domestic cup competition. At the same time, there were arguably improvements in European competition; while last season they ended up finishing last in their Champions League group on just a single point, finishing below Barcelona, Juventus and Sporting CP, this season they did very well to make it out of their Europa League group, qualifying for the knockout stages by finishing above Serie A outfit AC Milan. They did get knocked out in the round of 32 though, failing to get past Dynamo Kiev.
So, overall, a good season for Pedro Martins - but there’s room for improvement going forwards.
5. Fernando Santos (Portugal) - 7.5/10
2017-18 season: 6/10.
Before Fernando Santos took over as Portugal boss, Portugal were trophyless in their proud but otherwise fairly modest 86-year history. Since he became manager though, Portugal have lost just 2 competitive matches - against Switzerland in the World Cup 2018 qualifiers and against Uruguay in the round of 16 of the World Cup - and have two trophies safely tucked away in the cabinet.
With that in mind, Mr Santos has been close to impeccable at getting the results Portugal needs - his overall competitive record being 27 wins, 12 draws and 2 defeats. But he still, perhaps inexplicably to those from afar, has his fair share of critics.
This season, the only competitions that Santos has had to navigate with Portugal are the UEFA Nations League and the Euro 2020 qualifiers. The latter has been undeniably underwhelming; two home draws against both Ukraine and Serbia have put Portugal in a tricky position to make the next European Championship. For that, marks have been dropped.
However, he deserves huge credit for Portugal’s Nations League run. Getting out of a tricky group with Italy and Poland with ease without Cristiano Ronaldo and while playing some good football, he oversaw Portugal reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural competition and ultimately hosting their first tournament since the euros in 2004.
To then beat Switzerland and get to the final was also a great bonus on home soil, while his tactics in the final against The Netherlands proved to be near perfect as Portugal snuffed out any threat their opponents could pose and looked in full control throughout as they ran out 1-0 victors against a resurgent Dutch side that had just dispatched of an equally talented English outfit. That earned Portugal their second trophy in three year and, for that, Santos deserves huge praise. He has helped deliver tangible success to a nation that was starved of it for decades before.
At the same time though, with the talent in the ranks, some have argued, with justification, that the football at times is less than spectacular, with a significant proportion of Portugal fans starting to get slightly impatient with the less than exciting football constantly on display. But, if it keeps delivering success, as it has clearly done so far, that can most certainly be overlooked. When that success dries up though, he’s going to be open for criticism.
4. Bruno Lage (Benfica) - 8/10
The results and statistics for Benfica since Bruno Lage arrived are scarcely believable, even by Benfica’s high standards.
When he took over from Rui Vitoria as manager, Benfica had already suffered 3 defeats - to Belenenses, Moreirense and Portimonense. Highly disappointing results that put Benfica in a hugely precarious position to try and reclaim the league title that they had lost to Porto the season before.
However, in the 19 league games that Bruno Lage was in charge of, they earned 18 victories and drew once. Dropping just 2 points from a possible 57, Benfica secured the Primeira Liga title - and in style.
Indeed, not only was Bruno Lage unbeaten in the league during his spell in charge, but he also oversaw his team transform into a creative free-scoring outfit, bagging 72 goals in those 19 games - an average of 3.8 goals per game.
Indeed, in the last 9 league games of the season, Benfica scored at least 4 times in 7 of them, not to mention that they beat Nacional 10-0 earlier on in Lage’s reign. It was a thoroughly entertaining end to the season for Benfica fans to enjoy, with Lage also integrating a good range of academy players into the first team, including Joao Felix, Florentino Luis, Ferro and Joao Filipe to join the likes of Ruben Dias and Gedson Fernandes already in the first-team squad.
Lage’s overall rating would have been higher but for his disappointing navigation through the cup competitions with Benfica though.
In the Portuguese Cup, for example, Benfica secured a 2-1 victory over Sporting in the first leg at the Luz, but in the second leg, after playing some pretty defensive football and looking to guard their slender lead, they ended up conceding in the final 10 minutes of the match to go out on away goals. A very disappointing result.
It was even worse in the Europa League too. In the quarter-final of Europe’s secondary competition, Benfica were playing against Eintracht Frankfurt, who were playing with just 10 men for the vast majority of the match after an early red card.
Yet Benfica, while finding the back of the net 4 times, ended up conceding twice, which gave Benfica a hugely precarious lead in the second leg.
And indeed in the second leg in Germany, Benfica turned up with no intent on extending their lead whatsoever. An embarrassing approach to the game where Benfica ended up losing 2-0 and going out on away goals - a fully deserved defeat, making it all the more disappointing. For his lack of ability to navigate cup football, he’s not given a higher ranking.
3. Ivo Vieira (Moreirense) - 8/10
Ivo Vieira is one of the more unknown names on this list for fans outside of the Portuguese game, but he oversaw a sensational season with his highly unfancied Moreirense side.
The season earlier, Vieira had been manager of Estoril when they ultimately got relegated in last place with just 30 points from 34 games. Taking over a side that had just finished 15th in the league, only 2 points above the drop zone themselves, it’s fair to say that many had predicted a challenging season for Moreirense - but Vieira very much turned round both his own and the club’s fortunes rapidly.
With shrewd business in the market, bringing in Chiquinho from Benfica in a player exchange deal, as well as loaning in both Heriberto Tavares from the Eagles and Ivanildo Fernandes from Sporting, Vieira assembled a team full of talent and youth and this built a platform for a quality season for the Minho club.
Indeed, this was officially Moreirense’s greatest season in history, finishing 6th in the league on a total of 52 points. And Vieira deserves a huge amount of credit for such a feat.
He managed to instil a confidence in the side that gave them the belief that they could overcome any team, shown by some of their results this season, such as their impressive 1-1 draw against then-reigning champions Porto.
They also pushed Sporting close, only falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat, and toppled Benfica at the Luz in a shock 3-1 away victory. Ivo Vieira is undoubtedly the mastermind behind this success as they look pushed heavy favourites Guimarães all the way for that lucrative fifth spot in the Portuguese game.
2. Paulo Fonseca (Shakhtar Donetsk) - 9/10
2017-18 season: 10/10.
Another hugely successful season for Paulo Fonseca in Ukraine, yet again completing the domestic double with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Indeed, the former Braga and Porto manager has been able to lift both the Ukrainian Premier League title and the Ukrainian Cup in each of his three years in charge of the club - and last season was no different.
However, while he got a ten out of ten in our rankings last season, this time around, he only manages a 9, simply due to the difference in performance in European competition.
This season was perfectly respectable for Shakhtar Donetsk, although doesn’t compare to his last campaign, where he led Shakhtar to the Champions League round of 16 last season, making it out of a tough group containing both Manchester City and Napoli, narrowly losing in the first knockout round to Roma, going out on away goals.
Instead, this season Shakhtar only managed to finish 3rd in their group, being thrashed twice by Manchester City in the process. It’s hard to be too critical of Fonseca though; handed an incredibly tough group with both Lyon and Hoffenheim along with the English Premier League champions, Shakhtar finished on 6 points from 6 games, only losing twice in total - both against a rampant City side.
To finish third in that group is nothing to be disappointed about - you could say they even did a good job to push Lyon right to the end and finish above their German opponents. But it was in the Europa League where things were disappointing; after dropping into Europe’s secondary competition, they went out in the first round, losing 6-3 on aggregate against Eintracht Frankfurt.
1. Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves) - 9.5/10
2017-18 season: 9/10.
Wow. Where to begin? Nuno Espirito Santo, for the second season in a row, oversaw an inspired campaign with his Wolverhampton Wanderers side, leading them to a spectacular 7th place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, having led them to promotion with relative ease the season before.
Playing entertaining football with creative players and an inspired strike partnership in Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez, 7th place was fully deserved for the former Porto boss, and is full credit to the brilliant team spirit he has helped build at the club.
Earning the title of “Best of the Rest”, Wolves secured results fans will remember for years to come, beating Tottenham 3-1 at Wembley stadium, overcoming Chelsea by two goals to one at Molineux after a brilliant second half comeback, as well as earning 2-1 and 3-1 victories over Manchester United and Arsenal respectively close to the end of the season.
They also earned an impressive draw against eventual champions Manchester City in the 3rd gameweek, earning the same results against Manchester United and Arsenal at both Old Trafford and The Emirates. Simply put, Wolves were more than capable of competing with the biggest sides in the country.
Not only did they earn 7th place in the league standings, but with it they also qualified for next season’s Europa League - a remarkable achievement that will offer fans the chance to follow their beloved side on a continental adventure for the first time since 1981.
And if that wasn’t enough, Wolves fans were further spoiled by a magnificent cup run, reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup, beating both Liverpool and Manchester United en route.
That set up a clash with Watford at Wembley stadium, and Wolves looked set to advance to the final, finding themselves 2-0 up after 62 minutes thanks to goals from Doherty and Jimenez.
Things were looking even better for Wolves with just 12 minutes remaining, with their clean sheet still intact. However, after Deulofeu’s curled effort fell delightfully into the back of the net in the 79th minute, Wolves were set for a tense end to the game and, after conceding a penalty in the 94th minute, Watford pulled off a remarkable comeback, with Deeney converting from the spot.
A hugely demoralising finish to the match for Wolves, who looked deflated in extra time, unable to raise their game. With that, Watford were on top and dominated, and found the back of the net in the 104th minute. Wolves were unable to respond, and ultimately went out, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
That moment of huge disappointment is all that prevents Nuno getting a perfect 10 in our eyes.
Do you agree with out choices? Did we rate anybody too harshly/kindly? Did we leave anyone out? Let us know your ranking in the comments below!