One day, all football managers might be like André Villas Boas.
In only his second season in club management, the 33-year-old has led Porto to the Portuguese title and to the finals of both the Europa League and the Portuguese Cup. Porto are yet to lose in the league, with one game to play, and their seven-game winning run away from home in Europe equalled a record set by the great Milan team of the early 1990s.
It is not his success that marks Villas Boas as a blueprint for future coaches, however, but his background. Appointed to Porto's scouting department at the age of just 16 after sending a letter to then coach Bobby Robson, Villas Boas has carved out a career in management despite having never played a single game as a professional. In that respect he mirrors José Mourinho, his former mentor at Porto, who put a distinctly unremarkable playing career behind him to turn himself into one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Having worked as head of opposition scouting beneath Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea (where his attention to detail yielded scouting reports of forensic thoroughness) and Internazionale, Villas Boas cut himself free from the charismatic elder man's apron strings in October 2009 when he took up the vacant managerial position at basement club Académica. He proved an instant hit, guiding the team from the central city of Coimbra to a comfortable mid-table finish, and the attacking philosophy he espoused pushed him to the front of the queue when Jesualdo Ferreira was sacked by Porto 12 months ago.
Villas Boas's impact at the Estádio do Dragão is rendered all the more startling by the fact he inherited a fragile squad that had finished eight points behind champions Benfica and missed out on Champions League qualification to unheralded Sporting Braga. With a theatricality that Mourinho would surely have appreciated, Villas Boas even managed to engineer it so that Porto clinched this season's title at Benfica; figuratively prising the trophy from their fiercest rivals' fingers on their very own patch.
Villas Boas can emulate Mourinho's 2003 UEFA Cup success with victory over Braga in the all-Portuguese Europa League final on May 18. The identity of the opposition coach, however, may give him reason to reflect. Domingos Paciência was an under-used striker at Porto when the teenage Villas Boas cast his critical eye over the team's performances and the very purpose of his letter to Robson was to implore the Englishman to give Paciência a chance.
Robson's gamble in hiring Villas Boas proved to be the first stage of a coaching career that has been ferocious in the pace of its development. Should Villas Boas succeed in sustaining his success - at Porto or elsewhere - a non-playing background may soon prove a much smaller barrier to success in the dug-outs of Europe's top leagues.