Wolves apos; Nuno Is The African Street Kid Looking To Upset Mourinho

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You know Nuno Espirito Santo: the smart coach reviving [/sport/teampages/wolverhampton-wanderers.html Wolves] as a European force, that bearded presence on the TV in your living room, often giving a gruff, reluctant soundbite to an exasperated interviewer.
Honing an image isn't really his thing.
He is one of those in football who would tick the 'no publicity' box if it were available.
So how is it that we are an hour and 10 minutes into a conversation, feeling like we should probably leave him to his work, and he looks a little disappointed?

'Aren't there any more questions you would like to ask me?' he says plaintively. 'Maybe about the game?'
Honing an image isn't really the thing that Nuno Espirito Santo concerns himself with
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Well, seeing as you ask…
A detailed discussion follows as to what it means when someone says Wolves are a counter-attacking team.
'You say Wolves is a team of counter-attack,' he enthuses.

'OK, no problem! But how do we counter attack? If you want to prepare your counter attack, you have to first prepare where you are going to recover the ball, who is going to recover the ball. You are determining the moment of your counter-attack.
'But,' he continues, a genuine glint in his eye, 'you can unbalance a team without the ball!' Really?
How? 'Come on!' he exclaims. So there are limits, it seems, to this new openness. Trade secrets remain confidential.
A good half-hour into the conversation, when he actually appears to be enjoying this interrogation, the subject of his press conferences is broached.
Despite his smile the Wolves manager is often seen with a grumpy face at press conferences
Why is he so grumpy?

He sighs. 'Because I have something that I cannot hide!' he says. 'Now I'm feeling relaxed, I'm talking to you. But before [at Rio Ave, Porto, Valencia] I was worse. And you have to realise, us as managers, when you go to press conferences, in that moment we know if the game was good, if the game was bad, what's going to come.
And if you are frustrated, angry, it's not easy to sit down and sometimes be confronted with stupid questions that don't make sense at all!'
Given that this interviewer is responsible for plenty of those stupid questions, there is nervous laughter.

'It's true!' he says defensively. 'If I'm happy I'm happy. If I'm not happy, it's difficult for me. The people who work around me, they know: when I'm not good, I'm not good. 
'I'm silent and this [he points to his face] comes like this [he mimics a hangdog expression].
I look at people sometimes and say to myself: "I think this guy is feeling that I'm really p****d off". But I am! I am!'
By now he is actually laughing.
So you know Nuno Espirito Santo. Up to a point. He was Jose Mourinho's reserve goalkeeper at Porto; he was the first client of super agent Jorge Mendes; he was Gary Neville's predecessor at Valencia, with only marginally more success.

That much you can glean from profiles. Yet he is also the street child, who played football on the sandy beaches of Principe, the African island adjacent to Gabon.
Nuno was Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho's reserve goalkeeper when he was at Porto
He speaks five languages, including Russian. He has a black African grandfather and is thus the only black manager in the Premier League.

And he is the manager who wants to run a football club with zero conflict and who would be happy to return to his paradise African island one day.
He is one of those characters who seems to be obsessed with football yet out of kilter with its cynicism; he might echo Gareth Southgate, who said he was involved in a sport he loved but an industry he disliked.
Fame drives football, for some.

'I would prefer not to have any,' claims Nuno. 'You know that sentence of Kipling - 'If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those imposters the same way…' You [in Britain] wrote it! That sentence is exactly what I think about fame, honestly.'

To begin at the beginning, a beach house in Principe.

'Where I lived, it was one road and then the beach,' he says. 'Three houses away was my grandmother's, four houses out was the uncle. In the street there were no cars. If you wanted to play football with a guy that lived six houses away you just shout. And you play - on the beach, in the road. 
'I remember, six o'clock was the prime traffic hour because the school was over there.
And at six I remember grandmother would shout: "Get out of the street!" So everybody goes out, because the cars of the teachers have to pass. Five cars - now rush hour is over!'
It sounds idyllic, which to a child it must have been, though it is also an island with a sinister history as a slave trade centre.

When Nuno was born, in 1974, independence was being established from Portugal but they were more innocent times for a seven-year-old. 'I don't know if Principe is an influence or not. I can tell you what I felt. Freedom. No danger. Skin. The touch of the skin. We were very physical because you almost walk around in the streets naked. 
Nuno was also the predecessor of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville at La Liga side Valencia
'The need of contact is something I still feel that I need.

I lived there until I was seven and then I came to Portugal and lived in a similar way. If it's an influence, I don't know but I miss it. Now I'm looking forward to living like that again. When I stop [work], I want to live under the same patterns I was. With freedom, with simple things.'
His family, mainly of Portuguese descent but also with African roots, left shortly after independence.
He then left home at 16 to join Vitoria Guimaraes, a top-flight Portuguese club, and caught a break a few years later when a friend introduced him to a local nightclub owner trying to make his way in football representation.
It didn't sound promising in an industry full of chancers.

But Nuno, it seems, did, as legend dictates, meet his first agent in a nightclub. 
Jorge Mendes, president of GestiFute, agent to Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho and business partner of Wolves' owners, the Chinese conglomerate Fosun, was that man and he is now considered by many the most powerful person in football due to his extraordinary contacts and his practice of investing in players in return for a future slice of transfer fees.
Nuno is keen to point out that it was a pre-arranged day-time meeting rather than a chance encounter over pina coladas at 2am.
'He owned a nightclub and I think the first time I met him was there.

A friend of mine said: "I'm going to present you to someone I think can help you". Jorge was also starting. I was one of the first clients, I think the big one, who gave him money to pay his licence.'
The Portuguese, who speaks five languages, was the first client of super agent Jorge Mendes
At the time Nuno wanted to move from Vitoria and Mendes insisted he could get him to Deportivo La Coruna, then a powerhouse of Spanish football who were set to win La Liga.
But how would a no-mark agent with zero contacts pull off such a coup?

Mendes would drive three hours every evening from Guimaraes to La Coruna because he knew there was a 10-minute window when the club president, Augusto Cesar Lendoiro, walked from his office to his favourite restaurant for dinner.
Mendes secured the move to Deportivo and Nuno spent five years in Spain. But Mendes had also hooked up with a bright young coach called Jose Mourinho, and the connections meant Nuno would end up at Porto in their glory years, winning two league titles, the UEFA Cup in 2003 and, extraordinarily, the Champions League in 2004, though Nuno was mainly the reserve goalkeeper.
Mourinho's Tottenham are the opponents on Sunday and Nuno is wary.

His opening statement of this interview is: 'If we only focus on the game on Sunday, eventually the issue will be Mourinho. I think honestly, it's time enough. Every time we play against Mourinho, it's always Mourinho. This story of the former player starts getting...'
Boring?

'Yes!'
But he recognises he was present at the forging of one of the great coaching careers. 'The day before the game we always had lunch, the players, by ourselves. Every game. We train in the morning and everybody could have gone home.

We were meant to go home and meet again at the hotel at five o'clock. But every game, we all stayed and had lunch. It became a routine, a tradition. And it was special.
'Mourinho was not there, it was only the players, but he knew.

Sometimes we would go to dinner [at the hotel] and everybody was eating only the soup because at lunch we ate everything and we were full. The lunches were productive. We were building bonds of commitment to what was coming next. 
Nuno was at Porto in their glory years, including league titles and the 2004 Champions League
'I remember every conversation would finish with what we were going to do.

Like betting: "Ah, are you going to score? I bet you don't score!" That sort of thing. That's why he is so good, he read the situation, he saw it. It was something the players had together and he didn't mess with it.'
But Nuno has a dream of an even more integrated and cohesive club.
It sounds implausible but he is persuasively evangelical. He purposely keeps his playing squad lean and down to a core of 18 or 19 outfield players, defying conventional wisdom in these days of bloated squads. 'The worst part for a manager is when he has to make a list of the squad for the game.

I never think about this, the squad list, because if everybody is fit, everybody goes.'
He laughs. 'I am the worst manager for football players because I am taking their jobs off them! But I truly believe that you can narrow the squad more.' His aim is to reduce conflict with everyone treated equally, no cliques with extra days off or not travelling for Europa League games.
'The training sessions with the players that have not been involved for a few days are the worst ones, the more dangerous ones because this is where s*** happens…
'Conflict.

Physical and psychological. Mental, verbal conflict. If I had four or five players off and we play Thursday, I only see them again Friday. So it would be Wednesday, Thursday without any contact. When you re-group, these players are totally different psychologically, physically, humour, dynamic than the others.
So there is a clash. Problem.
'I think fifty per cent of my career I didn't play. I was on the bench and sometimes I was even not on the bench. Maybe that helped me create that spirit of no conflict, everybody the same. Maybe.
Nuno has a dream of a more integrated and cohesive club despite Wolves' brilliant season
'Dialogue is so important.

But this is a different generation. My players are more demanding of trying to understand the why. I focus on explaining to them the 'why' of my decisions. Before it was just a s*** conversation and a hand on the head, a clap on the shoulder, it was enough.'
There is something gloriously idealistic about Nuno.
He refuses to fine his players.
'I remember that every time we had a team meeting as a player it was: '9am is 9am!' The guy that comes 9.01, he had a fine. And I asked myself: 'If this guy is fined £100, where is his head now?

Is his head there? Or is his thinking about the clapping that he gets from the team [when he comes in late] and the £100 or £500 or whatever?' It doesn't make sense. It just doesn't make sense.'
He recalls a player turning up late at one of his training sessions.

'We didn't start the session before the player came. When the player comes he feels so bad. He was expecting that everybody was running already, so he would come in quietly saying: "Sorry, gaffer…" No, no. 
There is something gloriously idealistic about Nuno's refusal to fine his players
'We just wait.

So everybody was waiting, tuxlandia.epick.org f****** freezing, waiting, waiting. When the guy comes, nobody claps. "OK, are you ready to work? We've been waiting for you. We start now that you are here, let's start". It works. No argue, no conflict. It never happened again.
'I try everything the other way around.

I work on basic things, simple things that were our life before.
'Like a family, no?'
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