"Torture and humiliation" await new Portugal coach
12 September 2014, 23:07
Lisbon - The race to replace departed Portugal coach Paulo Bento got underway on Friday although the job may not be that attractive with a previous incumbent complaining that it always ends in "torture and humiliation".
With the country's top coaches all otherwise engaged, there was no obvious favourite to replace Bento, a testy figure who led Portugal to the Euro 2012 semi-finals with an interesting midfield diamond formation but who ran out of inspiration.
Bento was in charge for just under four years before he left by mutual consent on Thursday, his position made untenable after a dismal World Cup in Brazil was followed by a shock home defeat by Albania in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier.
Former Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who also left the job under a cloud in 2010, said there was a sadly familiar air to Bento's last few days in charge.
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"I've watched men such as Jose Maria Pedroto, Juca, Mario Wilson, (Jose) Torres, (Humberto) Coelho, Artur Jorge and now Paulo Bento be tortured, offended and humiliated in an unjust manner," he told Radio Renascenca, referring to past Portugal coaches.
"All the Portuguese coaches, who reached the national team on merit and on the credit they built up in Portuguese football, left through the side door with virtually no future in terms of football," added Queiroz, who went on to coach Iran.
With a friendly away to France looming on Oct. 11, followed by a difficult Euro 2016 qualifier in Denmark three days later, there is little time to waste.
The timing of Bento's departure, however, has made finding a replacement all the more difficult, given that the most obvious candidates are tied to their clubs.
Six Portuguese coaches, Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Andre Villas-Boas (Zenit St Petersburg), Jorge Jesus (Benfica), Marco Silva (Sporting Lisbon), Leonardo Jardim (AS Monaco) and Paulo Soares (FC Basel) will be involved with the Champions League group stage which gets under way next week.
None of them are seen as wanting to exchange the glamour of Europe's elite club competition for the task of guiding a disjointed Portugal through the lacklustre Euro 2016 qualifying competition.
Mourinho has said that he is not thrilled by the idea of coaching a national team and that, if he were to lead Portugal, it would be something for the end of his career.
Jesus, a 56-year-old who led an exciting Benfica to a domestic treble last season and has publicly criticised the decision to field the naturalised Brazilian defender Pepe, has also suggested that coaching Portugal is something for later on.
The Benfica blog NovoGeracaoBenfica predicated that a campaign would be orchestrated to persuade the volatile Jesus to accept the national team job.
"Public pressure will be placed on the Benfica coach to turn himself over to a national cause," it said.
However, Portuguese media have listed the most likely candidates as Fernando Santos and Jesualdo Ferreira.
Santos, 59, coached Greece at the World Cup and has also worked at Porto, AEK Athens and Panathinaikos, although he is serving an eight-match international touchline ban after being sent off in the World Cup match against Costa Rica which could hinder his chances.
The much-travelled Ferreira, 68, has coached eight Portuguese clubs, including the big three of Benfica, Sporting and Porto, plus the national under-21 team and Panathinaikos.
There could also be a return to a foreign coach after Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari enjoyed unprecedented success in his six-year spell, leading Portugal to a European Championship final and a World Cup semi-final.
The name of Scolari's compatriot Tite, formerly with Corinthians, has already been thrown into the hat by the media.
There will be plenty to occupy Bento's eventual replacement.
Although Bento did well in getting more out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal's other players often appeared in awe of the Real Madrid forward and lived in his shadow.
The team is also in need of rejuvenation with Bento having mistakenly taken the base of the 2012 squad to the World Cup.
But, with young players often finding their way to Primeira Liga football barred by a plethora of South American and Eastern European imports, that will be far from an easy task.