Everton sacked Marco Silva last week Thursday, and handed the reins on a caretaker basis to former player Duncan Ferguson. The passionate Scotsman then led the Blues to a big 3-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday, and with a trip to Manchester United coming up on Sunday, rumours continue to fly whether Big Dunc will still be in charge or if a permanent appointment will be made in time.
Earlier today, Sky Sports (take that with the customary pinch of salt) reported that the Blues are continuing negotiations with the representatives of Vitor Pereira, while also claiming that the Toffees have spoken to Unai Emery, recently sacked from Arsenal.
At surface level, Pereira looks just like another manager in the Marco Silva mould. Young-ish Portuguese manager, considered to be a progressive mind in the game, never really settled at any one club for longer than a year or so, relegated after a desperation appointment midway through the season, and so on. They even both manager at Olympiakos in Greece for some symmetry to their careers.
However, when you dig deeper, the similarities end, but the unease about their abilities at the highest level don’t necessarily go away.
Pereira is 51, and only played football at an amateur level before quitting the game at 28. He turned to management starting at the junior level, with his first head coach appointment coming midway through the 2004–05 season at A.D. Sanjoanense in the third tier of Portuguese football. Sacked at the end of the season, he went to FC Porto’s juniors for a year before managing S.C. Espinho again in the third tier. He was sacked again with ten games left in the season went back to Porto’s juniors again.
In 2008 he got another opportunity, this time with C.D. Santa Clara in the second division, leading, and got them to third and fourth place consecutively, narrowly missing out on Primeira Liga promotion both times.
This caught the attention of Andre Villas-Boas who brought him in at Porto as an assistant, and then when a season later AVB moved to Tottenham Hotspur, Pereira got the manager’s job full time. Porto were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the group stage and the UEFA Europa League round-of-32 as well as the Portuguese Cup, but went on win the league title in his first and only season in charge.
At the time David Moyes had just left Everton for Manchester United, and Pereira interviewed for the vacant position. Reports have it that he impressed the Board during his interview, but was only taken out of consideration from the final trio because of his inability to speak English, with Roberto Martinez getting the nod ahead of Ralf Rangnick. For the record, he is now a fluent English speaker.
Jilted by the Blues, the manager took a two-year role at Al-Ahli SC (Jeddah) in the Saudi Professional League. but a season and a half later when Olympiacos F.C. came calling he bounced over, won seven games on the trot and he eventually won the domestic double. That job done a mutual contract termination was announced, and he switched a day later to Fenerbahçe SK on a two year deal. Olympiacos went on to sign Marco Silva for the season and won the league.
At Fener, Pereira guided the team to a second-place finish in his first season as they qualified for the Champion’s League. However, a public fallout with star player Robin van Persie cast doubt over his future, and following a Champions League qualifier defeat at Dynamo Kiev, he fled Turkey fearing for his safety after the Board of Directors demanded an explanation for the loss. That ended that for him in Istanbul.
In the German second division, TSV 1860 Munich were wallowing in the relegation zone and asked Pereira to come in and rescue them. However, not much progress was made and the Munich side finished third-last and were comprehensively beaten in the playoffs. To make things worse, the club did not have the money to compete in the 3 Bundesliga and were further relegated to the provincial leagues and off went Pereira again.
Villas-Boas decided to give up managing to take part in the Paris-Dakar rally, and once again Pereira was perfectly placed to take his former mentor’s role, this time on a two-year deal at Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League. He won the title in his first season there, and followed it up with a third-place finish in the just concluded second season.
One of the hallmarks of Pereira is that his teams have almost always improved significantly defensively at every stop he’s made. Critically, none of his defensive improvements have come at the expense of offensive production, something that will be of note to the Everton board as the Blues struggle to stop leaking in goals from individual errors especially at set-pieces.
Tactically flexible, the 51-year-old is not necessarily married to any one formation, having used the 4-2-3-1, the 3-4-3, and the 3-5-2 depending on what he has had available to him. Again, Silva seemed to indicate that the 4-3-3 was his preferred formation but then played the 4-2-3-1 in just about every game he could, until he had no midfielders standing and was forced to change.
As far as personality goes, Pereira and Silva could not be more different. Where Silva is gregarious and smiles for the cameras, Pereira can be moody and sullen especially when things are not going his way. Silva is genial and friendly, Pereira is fiercely independent. At press conferences he would much rather discuss finer points of tactics than banter with the media, but for the most part is quiet and says little. Until he’s incensed, and then this happens.
Pereira is renowned as a student of the game, literally. His tactical ability is envied by many managers in the game, and he claims to have improved Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side with some useful advice.
“Vitor tells the story that he said: ‘Pep, in some games you expose your defence in the moment of transition.’
“He was having lunch in a restaurant with Pep and they started to draw some tactical manoeuvres on the table cloth.
“Vitor said he told Pep: ‘I’m going to suggest something to you, if you take it, here it is.’
“He then drew an exercise explaining how he’d already experienced the same problem with some of his teams in the past but he had solved the issue with that way.
“He illustrated it himself so Pep could use it to correct the problem.”
The similarities with Guardiola don’t end there, with his career-long commitment to a high press, and his intense love for Barcelona’s passing style so deep that he penned a thesis about it during his formal university education. He does have a reputation for his sides playing attractive football while defending well, which makes it no surprise that the Toffees are considering him for the position again.
However, will it be a case of ‘too soon’ with the fans who for the most part have been quite relieved that Silva has finally gotten axed and we can go on with climbing back up the table? Indeed, Pereira is quite different from Silva both in playing style and personality, but the lack of experience at the highest levels of the game will be a gamble that the Everton Board take, and it’s one that hasn’t paid off in their last three permanent appointments.