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Marco Silva’s Estoril journey

Written by George Rossiter on 23rd July 2022

George Rossiter looks at our gaffer’s first managerial job – against this weekend’s pre-season opponents.

This Sunday evening, Fulham head to the Estadio Antonio Coimbra da Mota, home to Estoril, as they complete their pre-season tour of Portugal that has seen a 2-0 win over Nice and 5-1 defeat to Benfica along the way. Estoril is a club close to our manager’s heart. Marco Silva spent a decade at the club, as a player, director, and as manager too. Here, I take a look at Marco Silva’s Estoril journey…

From player to director to manager

Marco spent a decade at Estoril between 2005 and 2014 in three separate roles. A right-back in his playing days, Silva signed for the club from Portuguese third tier side Odivelas and went onto make 121 league appearances, scoring two goals, in his playing stint at the club that saw a number of solid mid-table finishes in the second division of Portugal. Immediately after retiring from playing, Marco was appointed as Director of Football at Estoril, at the age of 34. But he didn’t stay in that role for long. Just a few months into the 2011/12 season, Estoril decided to part ways with manager Vinicius Eutropio, with the club lingering in the bottom half of the table. His replacement? One Marco Silva. He went onto spend three years as manager, and as we’ll discuss later on, it was a pretty successful stint.

Managing his mates

With Estoril struggling, there was worries that some of the core of the side that had contributed to multiple mid-table finishes would look elsewhere. However, having a friend as manager persuaded many not to jump ship and helped to maintain positive relationships within the dressing room. While Silva at 34 had no managerial experience, he did not have to wait to build trust and respect from his team, that was already there after six seasons at the club as a solid defender at the club. While fans may have had low expectations of a rookie manager coming into poor circumstances in terms of performances, the players instantly bought into Silva’s vision, and what came of that was truly special. Comments from the squad backed this up, including words from an interview with then Estoril captain Goncalo Santos, who mentioned how everyone improved under his management and how much his players benefited from having a coach that was a friend and sometimes a father figure too.

How did he do?

In a word, phenomenally. After defeat in his first game, Silva’s side only went on to lose two of their following 23 league games, taking them from relegation dangers to the Second Division title, winning the division’s manager of the year award in the process. Silva had produced heroics to bring Estoril back amongst the Portuguese elite in the Primeira Liga for the first time since in seven years. Expectations, however, were still cautious from the outside looking in. Galvanising a group he was so fond of and taking them from tenth to the title in a matter of months was no mean feat, but there wasn’t a huge amount of belief that Silva’s success would translate into the top division. Those doubts were very quickly proven wrong.

Silva continued to impress in the 2012/13 season. His side took four points from Lisbon rivals Sporting while also earning a hugely creditable draw away to Benfica. These were the sort of results and performances of a team only going one way, and that way was up. In his debut season in a top European league, Silva led Estoril to fifth place in the Primeira Liga, their second best ever finish in the Portuguese pyramid. In doing so, Estoril qualified for the following season’s UEFA Europa League. While the club struggled in Europe in a tricky group the following season, including Freiburg of Germany, Liberec of the Czech Republic and Europa League giants Sevilla, the achievement of making Europe alone one year on from promotion was nothing to wince at.

Domestically in that 2013/14 season, Estoril continued going from strength to strength. In February, they achieved a historic result at the Estadio do Dragao, home of Porto, winning 1-0, the goal coming from ex-Hull midfielder Evandro. This was Porto’s first home league defeat in four years, an astonishing result, and just another indicator of the continuous improvements being seen from the combination of Estoril and Marco Silva. The 2012/13 season was eclipsed, Estoril finished fourth, once again qualifying for the Europa League. In just three years, Silva had taken the club from potential relegation to Portugal’s third tier to consecutive qualifications for European football, simply incredible.

How did it end?

Estoril once again faced a tough group in the 2014/15 Europa League campaign, drawing Panathanaikos of Greece, PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands and Dynamo Moscow of Russia. However, Silva was not there to oversee it. After Sporting Lisbon agreed to let Leonardo Jardim take the hot seat at Monaco, they needed a new man at the helm, and Marco was their number one target. Just as the 2013/14 season ended, Sporting moved quickly to get Portugal’s hottest property, and Silva put pen to paper on a four-year deal. Estoril finished the 2014/15 season in the bottom half of the table as Silva took Sporting to third place and won the Taca de Portugal, Sporting’s first silverware for seven years. One thing’s for sure, regardless of where Silva goes in his managerial career, he will always be seen as a legend in the stands of the Estadio Antonio Coimbra da Mota.

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