ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS was just 17 when he first came to Scotland.

Sir Bobby Robson, a neighbour at that time, had been so impressed with the teenager's analysis of his Porto team that he gave him a job compiling statistics and collating reports. And, oh, added Robson, it might be worth his while getting some coaching qualifications as well.

And so the young Villas-Boas perused his options and decided that Largs was the best place to climb aboard the coaching ladder. Scotland had a decent reputation in world football at that time, but, more importantly, the Scottish Football Association weren't asking the earth to enrol. Villas-Boas paid his own passage on that trip from Portugal and, given the return, may have subsequently considered it the best money he ever spent.

He returned home to proudly show off his UEFA C certificate to Robson and the Englishman's translator – a fellow by the name of Jose Mourinho – and to tell them all about his Scottish experience. Something must have struck a chord with him – the facilities, the coaches, the charms of Ayrshire's sticky-floored nightspots – as Villas-Boas made a habit of returning regularly, earning more badges than even the most eager of boy scouts.

All his coaching qualifications – his B, A, and, most recently, Pro Licenses – were attained under the watchful eye of Jim Fleeting, the SFA's director of football development, his progress matched by a meteoric managerial rise. There was a short stint in charge of the British Virgin Islands when he was just 21, before he followed Mourinho to Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale. There the pair parted, Villas-Boas breaking out on his own as coach of Academica, before returning to Porto, where, in his solitary year in charge, he won four trophies, including the Europa League.

Yesterday he returned to Scotland in the guise of Chelsea manager, making the draw for the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup before addressing the latest hopefuls attending the Pro License course. It has been a remarkable rise – he is still only 34 years old, depressingly younger than most of the media who addressed him at Hampden – but he has not forgotten how and where it all began for him.

"My association with Scotland goes back a long time and I have been coming here for many years," he said. "It is always good to be back here and I am always grateful for the opportunity to speak with the Pro Licence coaches. It is an honour to do this for the Scottish FA, because they have been so important for my learning process.

"When I first came here I was only 17. I did the C certificate coaching badge in Largs and then worked my way on to the Pro-Licence, which I finished three years ago. I just wanted to get as much education as possible when I was younger and that's why I came to Scotland. At first I had to pay my own way, but the prices were always very competitive.

"The course was highly recommended to me by Jose Mourinho. He went through the courses as well when he was assistant to Sir Bobby Robson at Porto. Between the three of us we spoke a lot and we decided to take this route. The good thing about the Scottish courses is that they were open-minded and there was a lot of practical work, which helped you on the pitch.

"This was my beginning and the place had such a huge impact on me. That's why I always wanted to come back here."

It is the great conundrum of Scottish football that we continue to produce managers revered the world over, but cannot provide players good enough to qualify for a major tournament. Villas-Boas could not solve that riddle either, but expressed his gratitude for the helping hand he was given at the start of his own coaching career.

"The way you manage is all about your own ideas and how you can share them with other people. This was what made the difference between the other coaching courses I took in different countries and Scotland. I have always valued this one higher.

You get opportunities to put your ideas into practice and are recommended what you should do to improve. For sure, that was one of the reasons why I kept coming back here."

While Villas-Boas' visits have been kept fairly brief, one of his former rivals in the Portuguese league last season has put down Scottish roots. Paulo Sergio's stature continues to grow as he handles the off-field difficulties at Hearts with an impressive determination and Villas-Boas has kept a watchful eye on his compatriot's progress.

"It's very difficult to read the situation at Hearts, but he's managed to get results within this turmoil at the club. The fact his players don't get paid and all the structural problems he faces makes it more difficult. But you have to give him praise. Hopefully Hearts can find a solution to this situation and help Paulo do his job to the best of his ability."

While Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager, recently decried Scotland as no place for a young player to develop, Villas-Boas has no such qualms. There was a chance in the summer, he revealed, for a few of Chelsea's youth players to move to Rangers on loan, although the transfers never materialised. And while he has nothing to offer to Ally McCoist in the current window, he would not stand in the way of players coming north on loan in the future.

"For me, with the amount of games you have on TV of Scottish football, I can see it's always a good option," he said diplomatically. "That is why I was open to the conversations I had with Ally McCoist in the beginning. A couple of the world's best players have come here and evolved." Managers, too, it seems.