From one Portuguese boss to the next. After a long search to find Jose Mourinho‘s successor, it seems Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is to fill the vacant Spurs hotseat with the backside of Paulo Fonseca.
Fonseca left Roma in May – only to be replaced by Mourinho. He had spent two years at the Stadio Olimpico, where he reached a Europa League semi-final in 2021. Prior to moving to Italy, he won three successive league and cup doubles in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk and a Portuguese cup with Braga.
If Spurs do finalise a deal with Fonseca, the experienced 48-year-old will come in to work under new sporting director Fabio Paratici.
Here, we’ve pulled together quotes from his former players and some other highly qualified observers to explain his approach to management and playing philosophy.
Estoril sporting director and ex-Braga scout Alves played under Fonseca at the start of the Spurs target’s coaching career.
In 2020, he told MaisFutebol: “I had the pleasure of having Paulo Fonseca as my coach when I was 27 and I understood what knowledge of the game was. Give a stone to Paulo Fonseca and he will make you a pavement.
“I admire him, he made me see football in another way. I had always been a weak player in the CNS [Portuguese third tier]: I went to the byline and crossed. That was what the old coaches asked of me.
“After that I had a coach who told me: ‘Stop! Look at how you are positioned, look at the support [from your team-mates], look at the width your full-back is providing.”
When rumours of Fonseca’s sacking were already swirling in Rome in April 2021, ex-Roma and Poland striker went on Italian radio to defend the coach.
“I like him,” Boniek said, “despite him having gone out of fashion a bit. He was left alone. Seeing as we [Roma] can’t appoint someone like Guardiola, I’d think hard before abandoning him.
“He needs two or three top players, but they didn’t arrive because, as we know, AS Roma isn’t among the best clubs in the world. But it’s a team that defends well.”
Everton’s Brazilian winger Bernard played under Fonseca at Shakhtar Donetsk and told the UEFA website about him in 2018.
“With Paulo Fonseca, I would say I finished my process of learning in football. He helped me a lot and facilitated my decision-making process, allowing me to think and act a few seconds quicker, working equally on the tactical side, something in which I was not so strong.
“As time has passed, I have internalised his football concepts and the more I understand them, the more things happen naturally on the pitch. We can see that we have evolved every day and the results on the pitch are proof of that.
“But also away from the field, he has left his mark, helping to improve the infrastructure that supports the team and the club.”
The master of the metaphor and current Braga boss Carlos Carvalhal had a few positive words and a few worrying ones to say about Fonseca’s Roma before Braga played them in the Europa League in February.
“They [Roma] have individual and collective quality, an exceptional coach, with a very unique style, with a strong offensive dynamic. [But] there have been some changes in the defensive sector that have cost them a few goals.”
In December 2019, six months after Fonseca had arrived at Roma, club legend Totti spoke of his satisfaction with the early part of Fonseca’s reign.
“I’m very happy with the team and with the fact that Paulo Fonseca has understood what it means to be at Roma. The coach has managed to transmit a positive spirit and energy to a team that had various shortcomings.
“We hope he can maintain this positive path, because Roma should be among the best in Europe.”
Roma’s former co-owner and chairman Pallotta was extremely complimentary about his manager in 2020, after the Portuguese boss had led them to fifth in Serie A.
“I couldn’t be happier with Paulo Fonseca. Roma will be very lucky if Paulo stays at the club for a long time. He is extremely intelligent, has a very sophisticated view of football, a personality that is well-received by the players and a lot of maturity.”
It was Pallotta’s successor, Dan Friedkin, who decided to replace Fonseca with Mourinho.
Finally, the man speaking about himself. In 2017, he told Lateral Esquerdo: “My passion for the game is enormous and I have never renounced certain principles that characterise my teams. Shakhtar are no exception.
“It was with a very unique playing philosophy that I got here and I confess that I believe in it more and more. I will never be results-driven. Only winning does not satisfy me.
“I want to always dominate with possession, I always want to play close to the opposition’s goal and defend far away from ours. Us coaches are contracted to win, but we also have the obligation to put on good spectacles that attract people to stadiums.”
In 2020, he told The Athletic he adapted his style slightly: “I’ve come to understand the importance of transitions.
“I realise how important it is to win the ball and attack fast because all the teams here are defensively well prepared. Finding space is difficult here [in Italy]. If you don’t attack fast they organise very quickly and you don’t have a transition.”
Fonseca has also been very positive about Spurs former manager Mourinho and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola in the past.
In 2018, he told L’Equipe: “Jose Mourinho inspired me when I started. Leadership is the most important thing for a coach and Mourinho is a model in that area.
“But when it comes to the conception of the game, I am totally Guardiola. He will go down in football history.”
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