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When Ruben Amorim brought his Braga team to Ibrox three years ago for a Europa League last-16 tie, he did so with a growing reputation as one of Portugal's brightest young coaches, despite him not having the requisite coaching badges to take his place in the dugout for games.

Not that it mattered much. The then 35-year-old was busy tearing up the training manuals with his side in the midst of a run of nine wins in 10 games. Confounding expectations has proven to be something of a habit for Amorim ever since.

A diehard Benfica fan and former player, he had been lined up for a coaching role with the Lisbon giants' B team but turned it down when he realised he would not be able to have free rein over the selection and coaching of his side. Instead, he took over Braga's B team in 2019 and when that club sacked Ricardo Sa Pinto just a couple of months later he was given the top job.

“They all laughed when Braga announced it was promoting Ruben Amorim to manager. No one’s laughing now,” the former Benfica, Porto, Sporting and Braga head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said. “Everyone who doubted him has been silenced. Ruben Amorim has injected aggression into Braga and maybe that was something they lacked. They lacked the mentality needed to go and win against big clubs in the league and he’s changed that. They said he didn’t have the qualifications to be a manager, but that has nothing to do with the quality of his work. He can’t coach from the dugout during games and he’s still achieving these results.”

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Braga came to Ibrox that night and blew Rangers away in the first two-thirds of the game, taking a two-goal lead before the hour mark and generally living up to their billing as Portugal's most exciting team at the time. But they took their foot off the pedal and completely unravelled in the final 30 minutes losing 3-2 before going down 1-0 in the second leg back in Braga.

Nevertheless, Amorim's work at Braga would continue to impress. He won the Portuguese League Cup with them that same season (and the side he shaped lifted the Portuguese Cup a few months after his departure). In Portugal, it does not take long for the big dogs to stir at the prospect of an individual – player or coach – prospering at one of the country's provincial clubs but it was still a major surprise when Sporting paid Braga £10m to snare Amorim as their new manager in March 2020 given his Benfica connections and the not-inconsequential matter of him only having been a top-flight coach for a matter of months.

He backed up that League Cup win with another in his first full season at the Jose Alvalade Stadium and defended the same trophy a year later. Last year, he ended the capital club's wait to back up their previous league title success of 2003 – the fourth manager in less than two years to attempt the feat.


As such Amorim is now widely regarded as the best Portuguese coach of his generation and one of the most exciting in Europe. Certainly his progress has alerted plenty of big sides around the continent who have found themselves in managerial turmoil in recent seasons.

Now Amorim is being spoken about as the next Jose Mourinho. His name was linked to Manchester United before Erik ten Hag's appointment and also to Chelsea and Paris St-Germain where there is always the potential for behind-the-scenes upheaval. In recent days he has been mooted as a possible successor to Antonio Conte at Tottenham. It is a significant franking of his talents.

Pedro Mendes, speaking exclusively to Herald Sport back in 2020, was well aware that his former international team-mate was on an upward trajectory: “He's a fantastic guy, a very good person. He was a good player, a team player. Everyone at Benfica respected him very, very much. He has his own ideas, he worked with top coaches at Benfica and he learned from all of them and now he's started on his own path and he has the chance to be a very successful manager from what you can see so far. It's still early stages but what he is doing is quite remarkable.”

Some three years on those early signs that Mendes identified are now backed up by considerably more evidence and it could be that we start to see a lot more of Amorim in British football soon.

The 38-year-old has been to North London once already this season when Sporting drew with his potential new employers, Spurs, in the Champions League group stages. Tonight he returns to face Arsenal – the team that he will be tasked with catching should he replace Conte in the summer. It might well prove a job too far, however. Last week's first leg ended in a 2-2 draw and Sporting's away form is poor this season. By the same token, Amorim might just perform his old party trick and confound the expectations of everyone.