A man in demand - why Amorim is ready to join elite

Guillem Balague BBC graphic
[BBC Sport]

The end-of-season managerial merry-go-round will take on even more significance this summer with European superpowers Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all looking for a new coach at the helm.

The steadily increasing number of suitors forming a queue outside the door of Ruben Amorim, the 39-year-old Sporting Lisbon manager, would suggest the chances of him remaining there for a fifth season are unlikely.

Amorim still has work to do in Lisbon, though. With four games left to play, Sporting are seven points clear and within touching distance of his second Portuguese league title since he joined the club in March 2020.

It has been more than four decades since the club - with half the budget of Benfica or Porto - have won two league titles in four years.

Then there is the Portuguese Cup final against Porto on 26 May, where victory would earn Sporting their first Portuguese league and cup double since 2001-02 season.

Up to now Amorim has said nothing to suggest he will be in situ at Anfield next season and, when the rumour mill hit feverish proportions, he angrily denied his arrival in Liverpool was a done deal.

Liverpool now appear keen on Feyenoord's Arne Slot, but Amorim will not be short of elite suitors.

The latest club to show an interest is West Ham United, with him flying by private jet with his agent Raul Costa for talks with David Sullivan in the chairman’s house.

It is not a surprise he is a big fan of the Premier League given the pace of the game and the managers involved - in particular the work being done by Pep Guardiola and Roberto de Zerbi.

He follows Manchester City and Brighton closely and makes sure he watches a couple of Premier League games every week. His English is excellent and his recent reading material includes books about Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho.

Amorim's backstory

Sporting Lisbon manager Ruben Amorim
Amorim has attracted interest from some of Europe's top clubs [Getty Images]

Born in Lisbon, he was a creative midfielder who spent most of his playing career with Belenenses and Benfica, learning much from his former coach at both clubs, Jorge Jesus.

What he learnt above everything else was the importance of the collective and the importance of details; working hard in training, having conviction in your ideas, leading with authority.

Amorim watched closely the benefits of Jesus' defensive process, even though he felt if he ever became a coach that his teams would be mostly remembered for their attack.

His own family education - especially from his mum, a hairdresser who did not stop working even when he was succeeding at Benfica - taught him how crucial it was to be a key part of the overall team, rather than being a star individual.

Many close to him were surprised that someone who seemed so content with life would take the coaching badges in order to stay in football. His coaching career began with Casa Pia, then a third-tier club, where it almost ended as soon as it had begun.

He lost his first two games and, with his pride hurt and doubts setting in, he announced if he lost the third game he would quit. In the next match he changed the system and played a back three for the first time.

The system worked and from then on he remained unbeaten at the club. He also felt he had found the formation that allowed him to produce the football he wanted - one invariably linked to the spectacle for the fans.

From there he moved on to Braga's B team in the second division. A great run saw him become first-team manager, where he enjoyed an unbeaten spell over three months.

He earned his first major managerial honour when Braga won the Taca de Liga, Portugal's League Cup.

Amorim is like a sponge. After training and meetings, he likes to spend a couple of hours in his home office watching games, reading about football and managers, organising zooms with people he can learn new things from.

When he needs to come out of the football bubble he goes to the cinema, to an exhibition, or just walk around town. There is an air of the eternal student about Amorim, and a touch of normality and a humble demeanour about him.

On WhatsApp his first message might not be, 'what was the score in a Premier League game?', but 'how is your mum?' if he has heard she is not well.

When Sporting came knocking they were told they would have to pay Braga 3m euros (£2.5m) to terminate his contract - a lot of money for a coach in Portugal.

The following 2020-21 season, Sporting won their first league title in 19 years as well as Portugal's League Cup, repeating his success of the previous season with Braga.

Should he now move away from Sporting, the Lisbon club will at least be able to console themselves with the knowledge that whoever wants to take him is going to have to pay the club at least a big chunk of his 20m euros (£17m) release clause.

Why is Amorim in demand?

What he achieves in his working life is mirrored by the respect in which he is held by all those that know him away from the game.

One of the game's worst-kept secrets has been his generosity, particularly to those that had his back in his early days of management with Casa Pia before finding themselves facing hard times.

He does not forget those years and continues to help and pay for the housing of some Casa Pia footballers he had during that tenure.

They talk about his sharply honed sense of humour, his intelligence and his ability to get on with people both in and out of football.

His biggest magic is his ability to deal with people, to get them to do what he needs for the team in ways that it never feels forced on them.

One-on-one interviews with the media are rare and he prefers to let his football and the results do his talking for him.

Amorim would admit he is still adding layers of knowledge to his methods but he still believes football only makes sense if those watching are thrilled by it.

As well as those lessons from Jesus, Amorim looked closely at those who show a special quality as leaders, including Mourinho.

He is, though, an enthusiast of spectacular, offensive football, with lots of goals, domination and control.

He favours three centre-backs and two wingers, even although every few months his side have added new ways to attack and defend.

This is his fourth full season at the club. In the first, they won their first title for 19 years. The following season they finished runners up to Porto.

His worst time came in the third season, when Sporting could only manage a fourth-place league finish.

At a meeting with Sporting director Hugo Viana, Amorim told him he wanted to leave the club because he felt his project had failed and that people no longer believed in him.

“Nobody talks badly of you. In fact, I will show you," Viana's replied.

The director called in the entire staff, all of whom expressed confidence, faith and love in him and the work he had been doing.

Buoyed by that support, this season has seen them lose just twice and boast a 100% home record.

The feeling is that Portugal has become too small for him and he is more than prepared to move on to bigger things.

A year ago he would admit he needed to get it right and wrong more often in an environment he knew well, with players he adores and where he felt emotionally linked to everything that happens in his club.

Now there is a new-found maturity and he is keen to find out if his very close way of dealing with players, with tactics, with fans and the media, works somewhere out of his comfort zone.

With talk about his possible departure dominating the sports pages, Amorim was asked recently what his response was to the fans' banners around the stadium pleading with him to stay at the club.

"There is no need for fans to ask me to stay, at home, my son also asks me to stay," he said.

"So, if your son asks you to stay, are you going to stay?" asked the journalist.

"No, as you know, if you are a father, we can't always say yes to everything our children ask of us," he replied.