End of the line for Rui Vitória

Written on 01/04/2019

Benfica today announced that Rui Vitória’s contract has been terminated. The 48-year-old coach had been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following a string of poor performances. The 2-0 defeat against Portimonense yesterday proved the last straw.

An announcement on the Benfica website stated that “Benfica has reached agreement with the coach Rui Vitória to rescind his contract with immediate effect,” before going on to thank the tactician for his service. Benfica B coach Bruno Lage takes charge of the first team until a replacement is appointed. 

Vitória was drafted in by Vieira in the summer of 2015 after the sensational switch of his predecessor Jorge Jesus to fierce city rivals Sporting. In three and a half years as Benfica manager Vitória won 2 championship titles, 1 Portuguese Cup, 1 League Cup and 2 Super Cups.

He also oversaw the successful integration of a host of academy players into the senior team, such as Ederson, Nélson Semedo, Victor Lindelöf, Renato Sanches, Gonçalo Guedes (who subsequently earned the club huge transfer windfalls as they were quickly sold), Rúben Dias and Gedson Fernandes.

Despite the success, Vitória never truly won over the Benfica faithful. Two disastrous Champions League campaigns and a perceived conservatism when setting up his team to face biggest local rivals Porto and Sporting only made matters worse with the fanbase.

At the end of November news broke that club president Luís Filipe Vieira had dismissed the manager soon after the 5-1 thrashing against Bayern Munich in Germany, only for Vitória to be given a stay of execution. In a bizarre press conference the following morning Vieira said: “I saw a light, and it came to me in the night that he should continue.”

Ever since then Vitória has been a dead man walking. Despite a 7-match winning run, the fans continued to vent their frustration at the tepid displays. A thrilling 6-2 thrashing of Braga at the Estádio da Luz before Christmas was an exception and suggested Vitória may yet turn things around, but a fortunate draw against Aves in the Taça da Liga, followed by defeat in the Algarve on Wednesday night spelled the end for Vitória.

Portuguese media have wasted no time in speculating about Vitória’s possible successor, with José Mourinho, Jorge Jesus, Leonardo Jardim and Paulo Fonseca among the names mentioned.

By Tom Kundert