Ferreira gave me my first coaching experience, at Malaga and then Panathinaikos. He had a very good team of people working with him – one of them, Rui Pedro Silva, is now my assistant at Wolves – but this is when everything changes.
You join a specific philosophy. A view of how football works. But you add to this view, and give these people your own view of the game – the view of being inside the dressing room. It is important to connect this feeling to the way you perform on the pitch.
Dialogue. It is about sharing. One of the big things a group dynamic demands is to be able to listen and really understand; to learn from listening to others. You must always have space to share opinion, but at the same time be ready to make decisions that fit the way you think is better.
This is when you recognise that you are ready to be a leader – to be the main figure of something. This is the feeling I had when I became a head coach for the first time.
“It is like you are climbing a ladder. But the move from Rio Ave to Valencia was like three steps in one go”
We were lucky. When I took the job at Rio Ave, I had never coached anywhere in Portugal. It’s not easy to be handed a club in the top league at that moment, but of course I had knowledge of Portuguese football and a good background of people who could help me.
It was a real challenge, but we arrived with a strong idea that we were going to make this club grow. Really grow. No targets, but let’s see how far we can get.
The first year, we finished sixth in the league. You say: “Okay, for the second year, we’re gonna go for something big.”
You make a bet with yourself. You make a bet, and you give everything to win it.
It came out really good. We made two domestic cup finals, and succeeded in putting the club in the Europa League for the first time in its history.
That was a big thing for the club. A big, big thing. It makes us proud still, but at the same time we were humble enough to recognise that we had been given a big opportunity by people who trusted us. They trusted us, and they gave us space for us to develop our idea.