Rui Faria: brutalist, loyalist and José Mourinho’s indispensable assistant

Rui Faria: brutalist, loyalist and José Mourinho’s indispensable assistant

JOSÉ MOURINHO HASNT HAD THE BEST RELATIONSHIP with the fine city of Barcelona after his exploits against them while he was the manager of Inter and Real Madrid. A former employee and resident of the city, he banished memories of his past using the resources of their rivals, and is almost an eternally hated figure in the region.

But it mustn’t be denied that he picked up a few valuable stratagems for himself including the methods of the great Sir Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal, an entry into the grand footballing world, and importantly, a friend, henchman and everlasting loyalist: Rui Faria.

Born in the alluring northern-Portuguese city of Barcelos, Rui Faria, like Mourinho, has no experience of playing football professionally. Instead, he plied his trade as a physical education teacher, and that is what gave him his invaluable knowledge about the ever-complicated field of sport.

His career to the top started with a few stumbles, starting with his meeting with Mourinho in Barcelona, where the two would come across each other at a seminar. Mourinho at the time was working under Van Gaal, and after talking to Faria for some time, it became clear to him that he was the right man to be by his side as he looked to break into management himself.

The pair kept in touch and, when Mourinho finally got his first job as head coach at União de Leiria in 2001, he appointed Faria as his fitness manager and analyst. It was a task that was perfectly compatible with Faria’s skillset, and had all the makings of a successful relationship. However, problems ensued and a standoff between Mourinho and his chairman made Faria redundant almost as soon as he had been hired, and that has been the theme of their working relationship.

The two have been inseparable for nearly two decades and are the core behind their successful teams. Mourinho’s inner workings have always been a subject of public questioning and conspiracy theories, but if there’s anyone who knows it well, it is Rui Faria. Mourinho has even admitted on several occasions that no-one can replicate his style, his methodology and his way of work apart from Faria. The two have fiery temperaments, cold, calculated natures and a similar outlook on the game. It has been the blueprint for triumph across four different countries.

When speaking about who he was bringing to his backroom staff upon his return to Chelsea in 2015, he had simple yet informative words about Faria’s importance to his career: “Rui as we know is my methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work.”

Read  |  José Mourinho: the Porto years

And later in 2015, when Mourinho was discussing about who he sees being his natural successor, he was full of praise for Faria once again: “But if one day I have to choose my successor, if you want to use that, the one that I really feel thinks like me, is adapted to my way of lead, he’s adapted to my way of coaching, he’s the one with more similarities with me even in some traces of personality, is my assistant, Rui Faria.”

The pair have been quintessential to each other’s achievements. Following the impasse at União, Faria would follow Mourinho to one of Portugal’s bigwigs in the form of Porto, and that would be the groundwork for the path they were about to set out on. Coming in during a period of transition for the Portuguese club, the two would change training methods in the country, and would share details of the club’s training exercises during their pre-season camps ahead of the 2002/03 season.

Faria’s vast knowledge with physical education came to use here, for the team’s tactical philosophies were entirely refreshed. Mourinho applied a high-pressure line that relied heavily upon defending from the attacking zones, and Faria’s experience with fitness coaching was put to the test here. In a revolutionary change of strategy, Porto would dominate the domestic scene, while also going on to win the UEFA Cup, beating Celtic in the final.

On the face of it, it looks as though it was mainly Mourinho’s tactical nous and willingness to adapt to new conditions that carved Porto’s success. But Faria had a crucial role to play as well. The detailed training reports published on the club’s website in pre-season included details about their exercise philosophies and how each method was important to how the team plays. Carefully organised by Mourinho’s coaching staff, led by Faria’s vast data, it was a collective effort that gave the team the recognition they deserved.

The next season, it was the same success that followed, albeit on a grander scale. The UEFA Cup win was followed by an unexpected triumph in the Champions League, as Porto would dominate Monaco in the final to complete a historic treble of the league, cup and European title. In what was a major coup for Mourinho, he would see his stock drastically rise and earn a move to England, where Chelsea would pay large sums for his services.

Mourinho’s move to England also saw the rest of his backroom staff arrive with him, including Rui Faria, who was now given a more integral role amongst the team. And with the repertoire to back up his words, his time in England would see the commencement of his dark arts on and off the pitch, with Faria being the understudy to his boss’s antics. Arriving with the same swagger that made them so prominent in Portugal, the challenge in England was different, although it was met with the same killer instinct.

The first signs of Faria’s insanity in relation to Mourinho’s orders occurred in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Having controversially made it past Barcelona in the previous round, Mourinho was handed a stadium ban for the last-eight tie against Bayern Munich. It was here that his coordination with his coaching staff was used to full effect, as Faria was seen wearing a woolly hat and constantly scratching his ear to raise allegations that he had an earpiece underneath and was discreetly taking instructions from his boss.

Read  |  André Villas-Boas and the long con

There were allegations that Mourinho also illicitly entered the dressing room through a cart used to transport the club’s kits. In addition to that, there was also belief that the club’s goalkeeping coach, Silvino Louro, was given instructions on paper from Mourinho, as Louro was frequently seen going towards the team’s dressing room during the match. The bizarre state of events were obviously denied by Chelsea and their manager, but it shows the risk they were taking to test the wrath of UEFA.

It was business as usual for José Mourinho and Rui Faria at Chelsea. Trophies were a constant for the pair – two Premier League titles, two League Cups and one FA Cup and Community Shield each. A successful stint was ended, once again, by a rift between Mourinho and the volatile Roman Abrahmovich, which meant that the coaching team was off in late 2007 and into a short sabbatical, before Inter Milan would call for their services.

In addition to being Mourinho’s fitness expert and companion on the bench, Faria was also Mourinho’s peace-maker. Being the person with the most access to his boss’s plans as well as the squad’s happenings, Faria has often been involved in making ends meet between the team and manager, although that hasn’t always worked out as planned. Throughout his career, he’s been asked to rectify issues, and that was most visible in Mourinho’s ill-fated tenure in the Spanish capital with Real Madrid.

In the third and final season of their stay, the feud between Mourinho and the senior members of the Real Madrid squad over the former’s treatment of club captain, Iker Casillas, grew and that led to resents from the likes of Sergio Ramos, Pepe and, more publicly, Cristiano Ronaldo. It was Faria who acted as the mediator between the team and manager, and despite failing to patch things up entirely, he prohibited a highly volatile situation from getting out of hand. The footballer considered Faria to be a friend, and it was this mutual respect that calmed a hostile situation.

There’s a reason Mourinho has been so unwilling of letting Rui Faria go. Every member of Mourinho’s backroom since he joined Porto in 2002 has left him to go into managerial ventures of their own or into oblivion, but not Faria. André Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers, who were with him at Chelsea, have had the helm of Europe’s higher order, while the likes of Steve Clarke and Aítor Karanka have tried to cut it in the Premier League, but Faria is different. He’s a loyalist to Mourinho, and having stayed with him for 16 years, he has learned his ways, including the dark arts.

Assistant managers attract less attention than the men leading the team, and that is why Mourinho has honed Faria into learning his cynical off-pitch antics. Take the game against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in 2014, during Mourinho’s second stint as Chelsea manager. After gifting a penalty to the Black Cats, Faria furiously got off his bench and had an aggressive altercation with fourth official Mike Dean on the touchline. He was subsequently handed a six-game stadium ban and a fine of £30,000 for his frolics – a situation his mentor was has been quite familiar with.

Read  |  José Mourinho and the dark triad at Real Madrid

Rewind four years from that, and the war of words Faria is willing to get involved in with Mourinho’s rivals is also clear. In this case, it was newly-appointed Inter boss Rafael Benítez feeling the outburst of Faria, after he provided a scathing assessment about the injury problems amongst his former employers’ squad in an interview with Gazetta dello Sport: “Players are not oranges that are squeezed dry. Last season brought titles and self-belief. Perhaps there’s only one element that is bled dry at Inter … that is who is responsible for the performance of the team. Inter have fantastic players and a first-class medical department. The players, medical staff and Italian football in general are the same as last year. Only one thing has changed.”

In addition to that, Faria has also learned and expressed Mourinho’s blistering personality during rare press conferences. Mourinho has always had a local manager to handle to media. It was Clarke at Chelsea, Giuseppe Bergomi at Inter Milan and Karanka at Real Madrid who showed up when Mourinho was unwilling to, but when Faria turns up, there isn’t a shortage of entertainment.

This fiery attitude was on display at Manchester United, a place known for explosive press conferences. After Mourinho was sent off in a home game against Burnley, Faria took the media responsibilities and, in Mourinho-esque fashion, he had a typically sarcastic response to referee Mark Clattenburg’s performance: “I just want to say fantastic work from the referee, I will not say more than this.”

Over the years, Rui Faria’s role under Mourinho has changed. Currently at Manchester United, Mourinho has left training sessions to be delegated by Faria, as the former takes a seat in his office, organising details and planning for the future. He’s also been given the responsibility of handling the players that spend time away from the club, as expressed by Andreas Pereira, who admitted that he frequently spoke with Rui Faria about his prospects while away on loan at LaLiga side Granada.

If Mourinho is the executive chef of his kitchen, Faria’s role in the staff has constantly changed. From being the sous chef and assisting his head while at Porto, Chelsea and Inter, three clubs where Mourinho was given majority of the control, he has slowly and unconventionally evolved into the maître d, handling matters of his team and taking the responsibilities of maintaining order amongst the side, as seen at Real and Manchester United, two clubs that come with history, values, expectations and integrity that Mourinho needed to adhere to.

Faria is Mourinho’s lynchpin, and maybe even a yardstick to measure his success. It’s rare that assistant managers stick with their bosses for so long, and losing staff is a scenario Mourinho is well accustomed to, but it must be asked: would Mourinho be as comfortable in his work without his most trusted disciple and closest friend?

The two share similar views on the game, and each one’s ideology complements the other’s. It’s Faria’s tenacity and work ethic that has made him such a prominent figure in dugouts. He has all the makings of someone who can go on and lead a club himself, but with Mourinho, he forms special teams, and perhaps that history of success won’t separate the two. Wherever they have been, they have won, and that formula looks set to last the test of time.

By Karen Tejwani  

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