By Brian Homewood
LISBON, May 19 : But for a chance acquaintance at a seaside hotel, Fernando Santos might well have a become an engineer rather than one of Portugal’s most celebrated soccer coaches.
Santos has led his country to its only major title, coached all three of its top clubs and taken Greece to a World Cup, yet he says it was all down to circumstance.
After he finished playing, the 62-year-old intended to pursue a career in electrical engineering, in which he has qualifications, until a series of twists and turns led him down a different path.
“Everything happened by chance… Things happened along the way because that’s how it was,” he told Reuters in an interview. “I never put myself forward to be a football coach.” In the latter years of his playing career, Santos began working in a hotel as chief technician and eventually took on the role full-time.
But his employer was also president of second-tier Estoril and he invited Santos to coach the team on an interim basis.
“Instead of six months, I stayed for six years and we went up to the first division,” he said.
Although he was eventually sacked from the beach resort club, Santos had by then established himself in a coaching career.
Since then, he says, the possibility of being able to fall back on an alternative profession has relieved him of some of the stresses that afflict many coaches and allowed him to take a more laid-back approach.
“I never felt this pressure of someone whose only source of income is football,” he said.
After leading Portugal to victory in Euro 2016, Santos said that pressure was for cookers and that nothing could be more challenging that keeping four dogs at home.
When his contract expired after that tournament, there were no prolonged negotiations over a renewal. Santos simply sat down “for a coffee” with officials from the Portuguese federation and agreed to carry on.