“We live in a world that is made by rules, and you need to follow them,” says Pedro Caixinha, a man who knows a thing or two about the discipline required to make it to the top. When a club appoints a coach, Pedro believes, “you are not buying a name, you are buying ideas.” And he has plenty.
Despite being just 49 years old, Pedro celebrated his 20th year in football management in 2019. In that time, he has worked for 13 different clubs across three continents and seven different countries.
Most managers with CVs as long and varied as his are former players, given a leg-up by their pre-existing status within the game. But while Pedro played football to a decent standard in his native Portugal, the majority of his time on the pitch was at the amateur level. He sat down with Soccer Hub’s Ricardo Balbeira to discuss his unconventional route to the upper echelons of football, his influences and the future of coaching.
“Education for me was always very important in order to receive knowledge, after that came the possibility to create my own” Pedro reveals, alluding to his studies in physical education at University in Vila Real. “Times were different than they are nowadays,” he continues. “The academical coaches were beginning to appear in the process. For example, everyone has the reference of Mourinho.”
Like Mourinho, Pedro is one of a growing number of managers to have relatively little playing experience. “The future coach,” Pedro believes, “needs to have perfect knowledge, much more than tactics and technics”.
“It’s not a question of only having the experience you receive as a former player or the knowledge you receive at an academic level, I do believe you need to mix them both.”
One advantage a former player has over a student who has learnt about the game in a classroom is networking: “to know the right people, and convince the right people they can bet on you.” But Caixinha is a case study in how one can climb the ladder despite not starting from a privileged position in the inner circle. The contacts he made at university led directly to him getting his first major job, as assistant to Fernando Santos at Sporting Lisbon, since then he has gone on to hold roles at Panathanthinaikos, Rangers and Cruz Azul.
“Knowing the right people at the right time is going to help you a lot,” he says. “The master’s degree was the major point that created those types of networks and connections that allowed me to get in front and have different sorts of possibilities.”
The game has changed since Pedro took his first baby steps into the world of football many moons ago: “when I was eight years old, I used to go to the locker room when my father played in the Portuguese second division, I’d be on the sidelines taking the ball back to be played again.”
From ball boy to manager, Pedro has seen an explosion in the money and time invested in off-pitch activities. “In those days, it was only the coach who was doing everything. Nowadays, the technical staff are getting much more specific. I believe we need to extend them even more,” he asserts before going on to list the six members of his own technical staff by name and giving a brief overview of their role within his system. All are compatriots.
Why does Pedro think there are so many Portuguese coaches active in world football today? His answer is simple: “the Portuguese culture.”
“A long time ago, 500 years ago, we conquered the world. We discovered at least a third of the world. We left our country, which is very small, to conquer the world. I think it’s in our blood.” The success of Jose Mourinho, Fernando Santos, Nuno Espirito Santo, Jorge Jesus, Marco Silva, Leonardo Jardim, Paulo Fonseca and others would seem to prove his point.
“Nowadays, we need to adapt,” he goes on to say of his fellow managers. “When I went to Mexico, it was very difficult to understand some of the behaviours the players had. So, I needed to stop, I needed to understand how to get to them. Football has a lot of cultures. In different parts of the world, you see the football different. There is a sort of philosophy in those countries that makes you see the game differently.”
When you appoint a coach in modern football, Pedro believes, “you are not buying a name, you are buying ideas.” What will the coach of the future look like? “You are going to extend your knowledge in all different areas, regarding, for example, the creativity, the innovation; the virtual reality, even. Neuro sciences, robotics, everything is going in that direction. You just need to follow those steps.”
“I’m totally against those who say that everything in football has been discovered; you need to keep being creative, you need to be trying to innovate all the time,” Pedro finishes. It was a fitting signoff for a man always looking to the future.
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