AGONA Profile: Abel Ferreira, PAOK’s new mastermind
On Monday, Abel Ferreira replaced Razvan Lucescu as the head coach of PAOK, penning a three-year contract with the reigning Greek champions. The AGONA Profile analyses his coaching career in more detail.
No one expected Lucescu to leave PAOK. An unbeaten 2018/2019 Super League season, three trophies in two years, a chance to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage...there looked to be no reason for Lucescu to pack his bags. However, when receiving a hugely lucrative offer from Al-Hilal, the Romanian promptly activated his release clause and left Thessaloniki.
PAOK, admirably, didn’t waste time. Within 48 hours of Lucescu’s department, they had already picked a worthy replacement, with 40-year-old Abel Ferreira arriving from SC Braga. PAOK paid Braga two million euros in order to sign Ferreira.
Taking into account that he’s only 40, Ferreira doesn’t boast tons of experience, but he’s considered one of the most talented young managers on the planet. Four Four Two ranked Ferreira 44th in the list of the best coaches in the world last October.
“Promoted from Braga's reserves to the first team in April 2017, the former Sporting full-back has fast established himself as one of the most promising young coaches in Europe.
Praised for his tactical versatility, devotion to high tempo and good eye for game-changing substitutions, he finished the 2017/18 season in superb fashion and has started the new term even better, taking a joint-lead with Benfica ahead of Porto and Sporting with seven matches played,” stated Four Four Two.
ADAPTING TO COACHING
Ferreira ended his playing career at the age of 32, but if he hadn’t have received an injury, he would have continued lacing up his boots: “I got injured when my Sporting contract ended, but the club gave me the chance to recover. Nevertheless, I felt too much pain to continue. The year before, I had been asked when I wanted to start coaching, and I said that I planned on playing until I was 40! The injury ruined that plan.”
His professional playing days lasted between 1997 and 2011. In that period, Ferreira represented Penafiel, Vitoria Guimaraes and Sporting Lisbon, winning four trophies with the latter (two-time winner of the Taca de Portugal and Supertaca de Portugal).
Sporting immediately handed him a coaching position in the youth system.
NEW START AT BRAGA
After initially managing the junior sides, Ferreira was promoted to the role of Sporting B head coach for the 2013/2014 campaign, leading the team to sixth place of the Portuguese Second Division with 70 points in 42 games. He left his post upon the conclusion of the season and remained jobless until February of 2015.
And that was when Ferreira’s coaching career really began to take off.
PROMOTION TO SENIOR MANAGER, SUPERB DEBUT SEASON
Ferreira was the boss of the Braga reserve side from February 16, 2015 to April 26, 2017. During that time, he managed to convince the management of his coaching ability, subsequently becoming the senior team head coach when Jorge Simao resigned.
His first full campaign in charge, the 2017/2018 season, saw Ferreira create history.
The way in which Ferreira transformed Braga from an average team into potential title contenders was very impressive. In that particular season, Ferreira steered Braga to fourth position in the Liga NOS standings, finishing three points behind third-placed Sporting and 13 off champions FC Porto. The points haul of 75 was the highest in the club’s entire existence.
In the same season, Ferreira had also caught the eye in the UEFA Europa League, inspiring Braga to first place in their group by defeating Hoffenheim, Ludogorets and Basaksehir.
Ferreira took Braga to fourth place of the 2018/2019 Liga NOS by collecting 67 points.
Ferreira is an expert at changing the flow of the game with quick thinking and smart tactical changes: “In the 2017/2018 Europa League, we faced Hoffenheim. They started with a 3-5-2 formation, which later became 4-3-3. For our part, we had begun the game by setting up with a 4-4-2 system, but we then switched to 5-4-1 to respond to their changes. We won the match 2:1. A game like that makes me feel very proud as a coach.”
Generally, Ferreira always likes to stick to a possession-based game, with his full-backs bombing forward to create a 2-4-4 formation rather than 4-4-2. Vieirinha, Dimitris Giannoulis, Leo Matos and Rodrigo Soares will all be expected to overload the opponents with their powerful attacking strides on the two wings. Ferreira is certainly a big fan of the ‘attack is the best form of defence’ phrase.
His first task is successfully guiding PAOK to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, something which the Dikefalos tou Vorra are yet to achieve. PAOK join the competition in the third qualifying round in August.