05 August 2019
The coaching duo will join forces at Goodison Park after Boa Morte’s arrival as assistant this summer – and Elliott Bretland finds a lot of love back home
Sprawling beaches and sweeping foothills, bathed in sun. This is the corner of the Iberian Peninsula in the most western point of Europe where Evertons manager and deputy cut their teeth on the road from Portugal to Merseyside.
Estoril, the luxurious entertainment hub located on the Portuguese Riviera, twenty minutes west of Lisbon, to Sintra, a short drive north and famed for its historic, brightly coloured palaces and castles - it is here in the lower leagues of their homeland that Marco Silva and Luis Boa Morte first took to the touchline.
Born in the same city of Lisboa, less than a month apart in the summer of 1977, the pair know each other well and worked together at Sporting back in 2014 – Silva the manager while Boa Morte coached the reserves and youth side.
However, it was with Estoril Praia and Sport União Sintrense, two proud clubs, located in beautiful tourist hotspots while forever battling under the huge shadow of Lisbon powerhouses Sporting and Benfica, where the Toffees duo took on their respective, maiden managerial roles.
The story begins at Estadio António Coimbra da Mota where Marco Silva embarked on an extraordinary journey with Estoril, firing the club from the second division to the Europa League in less than two years.
This is a seaside town club but with less of the novelty. Barring a grand casino, it is a paradise of sun, sea and sand. The tide flicks back and forth as people stroll across the beach while light glistens off the water. This is one of the most expensive places to live in Portugal but is humble and classy rather than flash, glitzy and glamorous. Palm trees line the streets and murals on the side of the football ground depict buckets and spades, the local sea landscape and a huge yellow canary which gives Estoril their nickname.
As for the stadium, typically European apartments of orange, red and white protrude over the stands while blue skies and trees engulf the modest rows of seats behind the goal. Its a small but perfect football arena.
Once inside, club captain Gonçalo Santos is clearly pleased at getting the chance to reminisce about three incredible seasons with Silva as he buoyantly enters the Estoril press room.
Having himself played in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and Arsenal with Dinamo Zagreb before returning to Estoril in 2018, his time with the current Everton manager was among the most special of his career.
“We keep in contact and I told him: ‘Tomorrow I will speak about you so I will say nice things,” the midfielder jokes with a mischievous grin.
Thinking back to their first encounter, Gonçalo remembers a real battler on the pitch while comparing Silva to one of Goodison Parks stalwarts: “I played against him one season and Marco was right back.
“He was a fighter, a little bit like Seamus Coleman - strong, not so technical but plays with spirit, with his heart; always with his heart.
“He was a little bit small at right-back but in Portugal the game is a little bit different, its not so fast, so strong, so it was good for him.”
Hanging up his boots in 2011 after six years an Estoril player, Silva was immediately installed as director of football but promoted to coach just months later.
“When he started and called the players, he said well make a team to go to the first division. Marco built the team and always wanted to be a coach,” said Gonçalo, who himself could have moved to England with Aitor Karankas Middlesbrough before injury scuppered the switch.
“Marco always talked about coaching. He wanted to win, for sure, but he also wanted to coach. He looked at what coaches did, good and bad and followed their opinions on things.”
The impact Silva had was instant. After taking charge with the team tenth in the table, Estoril were soon top of the second division and promoted to the Primeira Liga in 2012.
Rubbing shoulders with the elite again after seven years away, they enjoyed an extraordinary season, finishing fifth and sealing Europa League qualification before going one better the following campaign, coming fourth.
“It was incredible, bottom to top in three years – nobody thought that possible,” Gonçalo added. “Only Paulo Fonseca [now Roma manager] had done that in three years, to go second division to Porto; Marco, second division to Sporting.”
In a heartwarming tale, Luis Silva, Head of Operations, told how his namesake brought the club together during that momentous title-winning season.
“Marco was something special from the very first day,” he insists as he takes a break from his hectic schedule – working in a team which consists of only 15 people behind the scenes.
“When we went up, at the beginning of the season the goal had been to achieve promotion but we werent favourites. After three or four months under Marco, we were twelve points ahead. After that we were winning and winning and won the league.
“Silva had the power of everyone around him. At the end of the season, Marco wrote a letter and delivered it to everybody at the club; from the man in the laundry room, the doorman, accounts - everybody received a letter. It was his way of showing his appreciation.
“For that, he had the power to make us like a big family. It was one thing that made the difference, especially in a smaller organisation like this.”
Silva was a great man-manager. Gonçalo emphasises the point, even describing his ex-coach as a father figure.
“All of the players believed in him. It was the best time for Estoril and a lot of players improved under him.
“The best quality is that he is like a friend, he asks everyone how they feel and he is always helping them.
“Thats the kind of coach everybody likes, he is like a father. Even when I messaged him yesterday, I called him father because its like that.”
Such is their relationship and bond, as we headed to the Estoril pitch, Gonçalo put his arm around me and proclaimed with a chuckle: “Lets take a selfie to show him”.
Pausing as we walk down a metal staircase, he sends the snap to the Everton manager, who at that point was putting his Premier League stars through their paces at a pre-season training camp in Switzerland.
“Look,” he says, tapping on the screen to show me his Whatsapp conversation with one ‘Marco Silva, “we spoke last night”.
As we pass the clubs trophy cabinet, Gonçalo proudly points out old team photos on the wall which features the two of them, player and coach.
Back then, Silva was being talked about as one of Portugals brightest up-and-coming managers having guided the club from relative obscurity to facing Sevilla, PSV Einhoven and Panathanaikos in European competition.
“Not only were Estoril winning, but Marco was also growing as a man and as a coach because he was a big part of the family,” added Luis Silva. Family and belonging is clearly key at this football club.
“Marcos main qualities are the way he understands a player and the way he motivates, as a leader. He knows everything about the experiences of a player, he knows every process a player passes along his career and he has the capacity to motivate all the players for one purpose.
“If everyone is on the same page, the individual is going to show more and will grow more as a player - from signing contracts to winning championships, to achieving goals as a team and as an individual - that was Marcos main purpose, to bring everyone together.
“During our second year in the top-flight, we had a second opportunity because everyone in the league was watching us, thinking we had just had a lucky season but we went from fifth to fourth, in front of clubs that had twenty times the budget of ours.”
Following his success with Estoril, Silva went on to win silverware with Sporting and Olympiacos. Stints in the Premier League with Hull and Watford followed before he joined Everton last summer.
It seems his people skills in conjunction with a serene personality, are key to his achievements.
“He was very tactical, not a screamer,” explained Gonçalo. “He would sometimes ask us what we were feeling, what we wanted to do, how we felt about things hed asked of us.
“Hes different from game to game, when you are winning hes quite relaxed but when you are not he is hard, hard,” he says, repeating the word and slapping a clenched fist onto the flat of his palm to emphasise his point.
“He doesnt look like that as hes always smiling, but when he needs to be hard, he is. When he needs to push the players or they say the wrong thing, he has a big pulse. Hes the boss, the leader.
“Away from the pitch, hes a quiet guy and a family guy. He is not a person who wants to show off too much, he likes things simple and that is Marco. Things go well because he is a good person.”
There is one story in particular which truly sums up Silvas character and proves that the people of Estoril will always remain in his heart.
“The kit man, he lives here close to stadium,” explains Gonçalo. “He had worked here for years.
“Last time Marco visited, even though hes now at Everton and a big star in Portugal, he went to the kit mans home. He was alone and he didnt say anything to anybody. He just came to see how he is.
“Marco cares about the club and those that worked with him. He went to his home, stayed with him and cried. Marco is like that, he has a big heart.”
After leading Estoril through such a glorious time, its no surprise Silva is still adored by supporters.
Fans have named one section of the stadium after him – ‘MARCO SILVA is even neatly daubed on one gate post sign in marker pen – and sing songs in his honour, five years since his last game.
Some have even given him the title which usually belongs to Portugals most famous manager.
“They called him the Special One, Marco Silva. When he came it was a small club, now it is a club with history in Portugal,” Gonçalo says.
“The fans have his photo on a huge flag, they are big supporters and they love him. When Marco comes back, he is never alone.”
“Marco has played a big part in the history here at Estroil,” Luis adds. “He is the biggest hero.
“Estoril was born in 1939. We have two stays in the Europa League and its our biggest achievement. I dont know if Estoril will make it again but Marco helped us to grow outside the pitch and made us feel important”.
Asked if Silvas Portuguese Cup victory with Sporting and title win in Greece was in any way a shock, Luis is quick to respond.
“No, Im not surprised he has had success. He has a lot to give to football,” he says, before revealing a glowing reference from another former Estoril player and boss who later led Portugal to Euros glory.
“Fernando Santos, the Portugal manager, he was at one of our club dinners as he also coached here. In his speech, Fernando Santos told Marco: ‘A few years in the future, youre going to take my place because this is where they start, at this club.”
However, while leading his country may well be a career goal, Silvas prime focus is gatecrashing the Premier League top six.
“He has the power to help things grow,” says Luis. “Everton are a big club and theyre trying again to get to the top. Im following Marco and I know supporters follow him too, wherever he goes.”
So, just how far can he go? The skys the limit, according to Gonçalo.
“I met him in his first year as a coach, he didnt have experience, but after one month, one year, you could see he would make it to the top.
“The way he is with players, the way he makes you believe in his ideas, its just a matter of time.
“Marco is in the best championship in the world and Everton is a big team; he will win, though it is very hard against Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City, United.
“I think in this moment he is very happy there and he likes England, he likes the Premier League. I think he wants to play Champions League and he wants to win titles.
“He is 42, he has twenty more years. He is very clever, he has time and Everton have big fans, big people and its a big club. I think Everton this season will be much better than last.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
While Silva has worked in English football for the last two-and-a-half years, Luis Boa Morte has not been part of the Premier League narrative since he left West Ham in 2011. Before that, he spent seven years at Craven Cottage with Fulham following spells at Arsenal and Southampton.
However, it comes as no surprise to those in the Lisbon football circle that he is working with Silva as their story actually goes back further than their time at Sporting.
“Boa Morte and Silva, they are friends,” reveals Gonçalo. “One time when I was here, Boa Morte trained with us when he was without a club. Silva knows him very well and theyve had a long relationship.
“Boa Morte came here to watch some games,” Luis Silva says. “He and Marco knew each other. Portugal is a small country in clubs and numbers and everybody knows everybody.”
The former winger has indeed stayed extremely busy since hanging up his boots.
After finishing his playing career at Chesterfield in League Two six years ago, he scouted for the Gunners, worked with Portimonense Under 23s and was named Maccabi Haifa assistant for the second half of last season before joining up with Silva at Everton.
It was at Sintrense, though, in the Portuguse Third Division, that he took on his first senior manager role in 2017.
Boa Mortes son, Luigi, played for the clubs youth team and it was here where he took sole charge of the first-team.
He replaced Luis Loureiro. This is a man who is painted on the wall of the clubs training pitch, located next to the main 2,800-seater stadium, along with Nelson Semedo, now with LaLiga giants Barcelona, in what is a tribute to two ex-Sintrense players who have appeared for the national team.
As the class of 2019-20 take part in their second day of pre-season training, the kind and helpful groundsman, with slicked back hair, wearing a long, very nineties, blue and yellow Sintrense jacket, patrols outside his house. That too, situated in a corner of the clubs ground, has a blue and yellow roof. His dog is now barking at the approaching stranger but he smiles and points to where training has begun. This is proper football.
The Sintrense squad are being observed by current coach Tiago Zorro - bleep tests are carried out at one end of the pitch while others jog to what sounds like a standard 80s pop beat on a nearby stereo.
Later, the players are in chatty mood, some in deep discussion across rows of team-mates as they stretch and warm-up during various full-body exercises.
Bushes grow tall above the white perimeter wall and mesh netting around the pitch. The players then get together for small passing games before the main kickabout on what is a chilly lunchtime by Lisbons standards.
Goalkeeper João Silva and midfielder Filipe Pipas are now winding down after the session and reveal just how much they enjoyed playing for Boa Morte. A good laugh but ever ready for work on the pitch, it was the ideal combination.
“He was a good person and a great coach with a good attitude,” says João. “He was very funny. A really funny guy but when it came to training, he had a different attitude and was very focused.
“Before games, hes very calm. At half-time, he is a guy with very different ideas but he doesnt speak too much. Five minutes chat and then its ‘lets go.
“He was a hard worker, always working, always. He kept us working physically and was great for our fitness.”
It seems Boa Morte is a friendly, determined individual who found an immediate response from his new team by maintaining high standards, just like Silva at Estoril.
“He was very firm, you didnt dare not be on time,” adds Pipas, who during our chat revealed a brilliant and curious coincidence about himself – some of his family hail from Liverpool and support, you guessed it, the Toffees.
“He had respect for everyone and everyone respected him.
“He arrived in the middle of the championship at a difficult time. It was not very easy because we were used to another mentality but he really helped the team.”
With the campaign split into two parts in the third tier, Sintrense had missed out on reaching the promotion stage of the season in the first half of the Campeonato de Portugal but, following Boa Mortes arrival, they were comfortable in the Group G relegation round, finishing twenty points clear of the drop.
Winning 28 caps for his country, Boa Morte was named in Portugals 2006 World Cup squad alongside Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Deco, something that was of massive significance to the players he was guiding at Sintrense.
“In the past, he was an international player and for us, thats important,” says Pipas. “He has vast experience which is great to reference and he gave us great responsibilities.
“This was because he had played in England, the best league in the world and he had the English mentality in terms of training and physical conditioning which helped us.”
Boa Morte gave his team great encouragement and one particular match sticks in the mind of Pipas.
“We had a game here in the stadium,” he says, looking across at the untouched pitch, saved for the big kick-off. “We were losing 1-0 at home, then a long pass came and I ran into the area. The goalkeeper raced out but I put my head in low because Im very small and its a goal!
“Boa Morte was laughing and said to me: ‘I cant believe that you put your head in there! He was a really nice guy”.
Moving on before eventually taking his position at Maccabi Haifa, a more ‘professional outfit as Pipas puts it, he is certain Boa Morte will achieve big things with Silva in the Premier League having swapped the famous palaces and castles of Sintra with Evertons Prince Ruperts Tower.
“Marco Silva is an idol,” Pipas says enthusiastically before referring to his triumphant season with Sporting, “Its not just the Portuguese Cup he won, it is the best party in Portugal, the cup final is amazing.
“Meanwhile, I think Luis has gone to Everton because he has great knowledge of English football.
“He had big ambition and will be a success in England – Marco Silva is a good coach and he chose Boa Morte.”
It is clear both Silva and Boa Morte were men of the people during their time in Portugal, hugely respected and each had a positive and lasting effect on all those around them.
It seems only fitting then that after such great days at home in Lisbon, they are now in L4 and working together at Everton, the ‘Peoples Club.
An amended version of this article was originally published by FourFourTwo and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.
Reader ResponsesSelected thoughts from readers
1 Posted 05/08/2019 at 22:18:51
2 Posted 06/08/2019 at 00:45:46
3 Posted 06/08/2019 at 01:12:10
4 Posted 06/08/2019 at 02:31:42
“Marcos main qualities are the way he understands a player and the way he motivates, as a leader. He knows everything about the experiences of a player, he knows every process a player passes along his career and he has the capacity to motivate all the players for one purpose."
Explains a lot about why talented but young and impressionable players like Richarlison, Mina and Kean are suddenly so eager to come to Everton.
5 Posted 06/08/2019 at 10:17:46
6 Posted 06/08/2019 at 10:23:07
7 Posted 06/08/2019 at 13:09:21
8 Posted 06/08/2019 at 13:58:15
Players who have worked with him have a lot of respect for him and seem to thrive under his coaching with good results in Portugal and Greece.
He hasnt had much time with his three clubs in England, Hull, Watford and Everton ( up to now ) to gauge how good he is as a manager, I still am not convinced he has what its got to take Everton into the club that will soon be challenging for the top level, but Im prepared to give a lot more time to prove his ability, especially with Marcus Brands working along side him, hopefully the three will grow and prosper together, Everton Brands and Silva.
10 Posted 06/08/2019 at 22:37:55
Maybe the players need less of the affectionate Marco and more of the fist-slamming Marco.
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