In the last decade, two men have dominated European football. From Portugal to England, Italy to Germany, José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have changed the face of the game in the continent. But it hasn’t been them alone, the man behind the scenes who work with them, more commonly known as ‘assistant managers’ have as big a role as the main men in the dugout. This is the story of two of the most successful assistant managers in world football: Paul Clement and Rui Faria.
Rui Faria—tenacious, bold, winner.
Camp Nou, Barcelona. Louis van Gaal, then manager of Barcelona, had José Mourinho by his side. A man working with the Blaugrana club since 1996, carefully organising team training sessions and scouting opposition threats for the legendary Sir Bobby Robson, was now under the guidance of the Dutchman. It was here that he would meet his future assistant and partner in success, Rui Faria, who was visiting Barcelona on a coaching seminar.
Who knew on the day that this meeting would lead to impeccable successes across Europe, that a meeting between a mere interpreter and a shy novice would raise havoc across the finest leagues in the continent? Mourinho thought Faria shared his same ideology and hunger to win. He took him as his right-hand man at his first job with União de Leiria and has carried him all the way to Old Trafford and Manchester United.
Like for like
Like Mourinho, Faria never played football professionally, but, just like Mourinho, he’s got the same passion, aggression and tenacity. In the 2011-12 season at Real Madrid—the one which saw the Los Blancos win La Liga with a joint record 100 points, Faria was sent off four times in as many months as Real Madrid were able to win the league.
Another incident occurred against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in 2014, where Faria was sent off for protesting the referee’s decision to hand the Black Cats a penalty. The game saw Mourinho’s perfect home league record at Chelsea come to an end as they fell to a shocking defeat.
“RUI, AS WE KNOW, IS MY METHODOLOGY RIGHT ARM, THE GUY THAT UNDERSTANDS BEST MY INFORMATION AND THE WAY I WORK.” – JOSÉ MOURINHO, 2013
Faria possesses the same traits as his boss, traits which have earned praise from the man himself. His loyalty to Mourinho can only be matched by goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro. All of Mourinho’s previous assistants, be it André Villas-Boas, Steve Clark or Aitor Karanka have moved on to more candid jobs in football at the top of the management tree, but Faria’s loyalty to Mourinho has bore fruit for the pair and the clubs they are employed at.
The two have been inseparable for over 15 years having dominated domestic leagues in Spain and England with Real Madrid and Chelsea as well as being able to conquer the holy grail of European football, the Champions League, with FC Porto and Inter Milan.
At Old Trafford now, the Manchester United faithful have already seen fine managerial pairings in the past through Sir Alex Ferguson‘s relationships with the likes of Brian Kidd, Carlos Queiroz, and current Hull City caretaker boss Mike Phelan and will hope the current pairing will take the club back to the very elite.
Paul Clement—cool, composed, architect.
From a PE teacher in Sutton, England to managing the best of the best in Munich, Germany, Paul Clement has done it all. In a relatively short space of time, Clement has managed a whole host of stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Gareth Bale under the mentorship of Carlo Ancelotti.
Raised in a football family, Clement never really managed to cut it at the highest level. His father, Dave and brother, Neil represented the likes of Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion, but Paul was only able to make it to the non-league level with Banstead Atletic and Corinthian Casuals. He hung up his boots in his mid-twenties and focused on a career in coaching, going on to obtain a UEFA ‘A’ Coaching License, in 1999.
Chelsea and Fulham had their academies managed by Clement before he took on a role with the Republic of Ireland U21s. In 2007, Clement returned to Chelsea, working with the youth setup and progressing along the ranks. Little did he know that the return would change his life.
Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment at the Blues in 2009 saw him retain Clement and he continued as assistant manager—the same role he had under Guus Hiddink. Chelsea went on to win the double of the Premier League and FA Cup in 2010 with a record number of goals scored in a single league campaign. Ancelotti failed to repeat his successes of the previous season and was sacked in 2011, leaving a question mark over Clement’s future.
Clement reunited with Ancelotti again, this time at Paris Saint-Germain, via a short stint at struggling Blackburn Rovers. With the money provided by the French side’s new owners, it was set to be a fruitful ride. A Ligue 1 title in his first, and only, full season at the Parc des Princes saw Real Madrid come calling for Ancelotti’s and Clement’s services—a move which would bring the greatest success of the Englishman’s career.
“My knees started to shake at the possibility that I could work at Real Madrid” – PAUL CLEMENT, 2013
May 24, 2014, Estádio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal. From a PE teacher in Sutton to the grandest stage in club football—the Champions League final. Atlético Madrid‘s defiance, broken in the end by this exciting Real Madrid side who launched the grandest blitzkrieg in the final minutes of extra time as they claimed the La Decima title over which they had been obsessing for a decade. Just six years prior, Clement was coaching a bunch of kids in East London, now he had won the greatest honour in football in his first season in Madrid.
The success in Lisbon couldn’t be matched in the 2014-15 campaign. Despite going on an incredible 21-game winning streak in the middle of the season in all competitions, a mishap saw them lose their way. Barcelona won the La Liga title, Atlético Madrid beat them in the Copa del Rey, while Juventus overcame their challenge in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Ancelotti and Clement were sent packing in May 2015.
Clement returned to England with Derby County, only this time, he’d have a right-hand man of his own. The top job with the Rams saw him tasked with the challenge of helping Derby back to the Premier League for the first time since 2008. A task failed. Clement was sacked in February 2016 for not “building the Derby way”, according to Derby chairman Mel Morris.
He didn’t stay down for too long, however. Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment at German giants Bayern Munich saw Clement being taken to Bavaria as well. The two hope to succeed where Pep Guardiola failed and win the Champions League.
Men Behind The Masterminds
Faria and Clement have one thing in common along with the tag of being ‘assistant managers’: it’s their work. Wherever they’ve been, they’ve won. Under Mourinho and Ancelotti, the two have enjoyed a whole load of success, all while receiving very little credit and attention. They’ve both got contradicting styles, but a winning mentality that’s been reflected on their individual CVs.