Ludicrous, impulsive and straight-up nonsensical were just a portion of the adjectives awaiting Rúben Amorim in light of his appointment as Sporting manager for a whopping €10 million compensation fee, the third highest ever, just two months into his first stint in charge of his first top-flight club, Sporting de Braga.
The Lions’ club president, Frederico Varandas, and his camp were quick to remind critics of the last managerial gamble Sporting passed on – a relatively well-known individual by the name of José Mourinho – adding that the value forked out for Amorim would be nothing compared to money placed back into the coffers through player development and future sales.
For Sporting fans, promised a return to the glory days for so long, the vision in place seemed farfetched for a club who had not only gone 18 years without tasting Primeira Liga success, but had also seen their quality in numbers gutted by the mayhem that ensued in 2018 with widespread contract terminations, as the task to build on an uneven foundation rested on Amorim’s shoulders.
Against the better judgement of the doubters, however, of which there were, of course, plenty, what Amorim has been able to do in the green half of Lisbon since the bold move has been nothing short of miraculous, marking him out as one of the biggest up-and-coming commodities in the managerial industry.
Perhaps aided by a mid-season arrival at Sporting in early 2020, the then 35-year-old was quick to adhere to the historical connection the club has with its own academy by blooding youth, introducing a lot of the younger faces to the multi-faceted 3-4-3 formation he’s sworn by since arriving at the pinnacle of Portuguese football.
The results improved slowly and surely under the manager’s command and the eventual rise in prominence of Matheus Nunes, Nuno Mendes and Gonçalo Inácio, among others, served as the guiding light for what Amorim was looking to build.
Fresh doubts were cast during the following summer, with Sporting committing considerable funds to land the likes of Pedro Gonçalves and Nuno Santos, on top of others who had previously failed to inspire at previous clubs, such as Pedro Porro and the more experienced Antonio Adán and Zouhair Feddal.
But as Pedro Gonçalves banged in the goals and ex-La Liga trio, Adán, Feddal and Porro formed part of an almost impenetrable defence, pushing its side up the table, it quickly became visible that what Amorim was cooking had clearly showed signs of bubbling.
The youthfulness of the squad continued the catch the eye as the onlookers quizzed Sporting’s manager, right throughout the season, how long such young heads could keep their title-winning form going.
Never one to pile on the pressure, Amorim was always and continues to be very measured with his words, disarming each and every press conference with rational and insightful dialogue.
He’s a grand protector of his players and in that, some may say, lies the key ingredient to his recent managerial success of late.
The rapport between player and manager is close-knit, with the fresh-faced coach often seen cracking a joke with his pupils at training and on the sidelines. That camaraderie extends itself throughout the entire squad, amongst the players, many of which are meant to be rivalling each other for the same position in Amorim’s plans.
With Sporting’s future stars, already fuelled by the prospect of causing an impression at such a young age, being nurtured by the importance of work ethic and togetherness, the club was able to achieve what the wealth of Benfica and the experience of FC Porto could not in 2021, bringing to a close a dispiriting cycle of 19 years without the evasive Primeira Liga title.
This season, with greater expectations attached to the precedent set, Amorim & co. are hoping to go back-to-back as they tussle with Porto at the midpoint of the season.
In the meantime, the former Portugal international has made inroads on the European stage too, where they made it out of the UEFA Champions League group for the first time since 2008, with a date against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City set up for the last round of 16.
The match-up presents a platform for João Palhinha and Pedro Gonçalves, among many others, to increase the number of suitors already onto the noise emanating from Alvalade, but you can bet much of the attention will also coming knocking for the 37-year-old manager, particularly if the current title holder manages to pull off a shock against ‘the Citizens’.
Whoever it is that comes calling will have to part way with €30 million, as per Amorim’s release clause, running across a deal that expires in 2024.
The figure has served as a repellent for interested teams during a time of absolute focus on the project at hand from the former Portugal international, but Sporting know they won’t be able to hold onto their poster boy for too long.
The club fortunate enough to reel him in will be acquiring the latest in a line of promising Portuguese managers – dubbed the leader of the new school and, still, the heir to Mourinho’s throne.
Unlike the former Chelsea and Inter boss, however, Amorim’s foundations stem from a great sense of modesty, respect and general correctness. He’s an adaptable figure who’s rallying cries touch numerous types of characters and make Sporting the thriving family-like ambience it is today.
It’s this clear vision and approach that’s enabled Amorim’s teams to dream and excel, decorating a CV that becomes more and more attractive to his suitors by the week.
Tuesday night, against City, holds the power of fast-forwarding the inevitable – presenting Amorim to the world.