Andre Villas-Boas had worked for his fellow Portuguese Jose Mourinho as opposition scout, including at Chelsea between 2004 and 2007. He had subsequently impressed as a no.1 in his own right at little Academica de Coimbre before leading Porto to a domestic Double, and the Europa League title in 2011 – at 33 the youngest coach ever to lift a UEFA title.
The intensity of expectations on his return to Stamford Bridge on 22 June 2011 was on a new scale, especially for a young coach. A fine start, with plenty of goals but only one clean sheet, jarred to a halt with a turbulent loss at QPR and in a 3-5 reverse at home to Arsenal.
The Portuguese laboured late into the night at Cobham to resolve tactical issues and senior players were left out of key games with the result not always as the manager had expected. A tipping point came in February when the Blues, leading 3-0 at home to Manchester United, with David Luiz and Juan Mata on the scoresheet, slipped back to 3-3. The 1-3 loss at Napoli, with the seasoned Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard starting on the bench, seemed to show no way back.
‘Every defeat Chelsea suffers piles more pressure on any manager,’ Villas-Boas had admitted following the damaging 0-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion a few days later, on 4 March 2012. From the following day, that pressure would be taken by his assistant, Roberto Di Matteo.
Villas-Boas returned to management with Spurs and then Zenit in Russia.