Fonseca loves tactics, is like Tuchel and has thrived without a budget

Paulo Fonseca is obsessed with tactics, has been likened to Thomas Tuchel and is committed to attacking football (which cost him the Spurs job) – but he’s NEVER been given the riches that could await at Newcastle

  • Newcastle have held positive talks with former Roma manager Paulo Fonseca 
  • He is one of the leading candidates to fill the hotseat left empty by Steve Bruce
  • Fonseca was considered by Tottenham in the summer but that move collapsed
  • He has been out of work following mixed success while in charge at Roma 

Paulo Fonseca recalls returning home frustrated despite a victory earlier in the afternoon. 

Asked what is wrong by his wife Katerina, winning, Fonseca says, is not enough. He wants to win in style.  

‘We have an obligation with supporters to create a spectacle, a good show. That is the obligation of the coach,’ Fonseca, 48, told the Telegraph last month.

‘I want to win every game but just winning is not enough for me. I have to be offensive and dominate the games and have an offensive midfield and show courage in the game. These are things which will die with me.’ 

Paulo Fonseca (left) held talks with Newcastle as they look for Steve Bruce’s (right) successor

Amanda Staveley (right) is believed to be an admirer of Fonseca and his attacking philosophy

Having held talks with Newcastle’s top brass on Tuesday over a Zoom video call, news of his steadfast belief in his attacking philosophy will be music to the ears of the north-east club’s supporters. 

Steve Bruce was sent packing with an £8million compensation package on Wednesday afternoon and immediately the hunt for his successor was stepped up.

Fonseca, who has been out of work since leaving Roma in May to be replaced by Jose Mourinho, quickly shot up the shortlist to be among the leading contenders.

Had one or two chess pieces moved in a different direction Fonseca would already be managing in the Premier League but at Tottenham, rather than Newcastle.

Among the names in the frame to replace Jose Mourinho, who ironically replaced him at Roma, Fonseca was looking ahead to a ‘done deal’. He had started his pre-season planning, ideas were flowing on how to get Tottenham firing again after stunting under Mourinho.

But the move was torpedoed just when it looked sorted. The arrival of director Fabio Paratici from Juventus cost Fonseca his opportunity.

He also spoke to Everton in 2018 before they opted to appoint Marco Silva instead. Finally, he looks on the cusp of getting his chance. 

Paratici gravitates towards a pragmatic, defensive-minded boss and Fonseca has too much pride and too much belief in his philosophy to compromise his beliefs, even if his ambition is to prove himself in England. 

Fonseca, 48, is obsessed with tactics and is constantly breaking down play in the film room

‘I have some principles. I wanted to be coach of the great teams but I want the right project and a club where the people believe in my ideas, my way to play,’ he added to The Telegraph

When it works his attacking philosophy can be athletic but it has often proven to be all-or-nothing, kamikaze, reckless in big moments.

In last season’s Europa League semi-finals Roma found themselves 2-1 up at Old Trafford in the first-leg against Manchester United, only to go on to lose that game 6-2, killing any hopes of the Italians progressing to the final. 

‘It was an inexplicable blackout,’ he said. ‘I’m the main one responsible for this. I’m always here to assume my responsibilities and I’ll never shy away from that. I’m primary culprit for this.’ 

Defending seems alien to him and while it’s boom or bust with that sort of mantra – as Marcelo Bielsa has found out on more than one occasion with Leeds – it would certainly ramp up the excitement ten-fold for a Newcastle fan-base that had grown weary of Steve Bruce’s tactics.  

Fonseca’s journey has been one that saw him born and raised in Mozambique until the age of 14 before a move to the small city of Setubal, in close proximity to Lisbon, set his professional career in motion.   

The central defender played for Barreirense in Portugal before sealing a switch to Porto, only to spend his entire spell with them out on loan elsewhere.

He is not alien to silverware having won the Portuguese Cup with Braga before he headed over to Ukraine to take charge of Shakhtar Donetsk, where he oversaw three league titles

But his tactical acumen was building steadily and when he crossed over to management in 2012 with Pacos de Ferreira, the time had arrived to cut his teeth.

A third-placed finish with Pacos, therefore securing a play-off spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds, with an incredibly modest budget – one of the lowest in the top flight – elevated his stock among coaches on the continent. 

Handed the reins of national champions Porto in 2013, he arrived with some unfinished business having been overlooked in his playing days. 

Starting by winning the Portuguese Super Cup suggested promise but he was gone not even a year into his two-year contract, dismissed in March with Porto third and nine points off league leaders Benfica.

It was a sobering nine months for Fonseca and reality was hitting hard – he still had plenty to learn.

A second spell at Pacos and then on to Braga allowed him to stay out of the limelight more or less for the next two years before the chance came to move abroad with Shakhtar Donetsk. 

Armed with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Fonseca was a hit in Ukraine. His reputation was rising once more; it was like he was starting with Pacos again.

His high pressing tactics are demanding and exhausting but they were key to leading Shakhtar Donetsk to three Ukrainian league and cup doubles.

The Portuguese boss famously dressed up as fictional character Zorro in a press conference 

Winning in Ukraine, again on something of a modest budget, was one thing but Europe and the Champions League would be where he was able to really turn some heads. 

Inflicting Manchester City’s first defeat in 29 matches to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League certainly made people sit up – and that wasn’t just because he did his post-match press conference dressed as Zorro.

Fonseca promised to dress up as Zorro – the fictional masked vigilante – if Shakhtar went through, and they did as runners-up behind City. 

Bernard, who later left for Everton, thrived that day and Fred, who frustrates more than he impresses at United, owes a lot to Fonseca in elevating his level to that of a £52m player. 

The model which Fonseca has typically worked under is one of buy low, sell high. Only once in his managerial career has he spent more than £25m on player, splashing that cash to bring Leandro Spinazzola to Roma in 2019.

So no, Fonseca has never been afforded anything close to the Saudi millions that would await if he takes charge at Newcastle. How he would get on with such wealthy resources is a question that can only be answered after the fact. 

He’s typically frugal – it is partly why he loved Zorro so much as a child, explaining that it was the cheapest costume to make for a poor family. 

But his managerial acumen and his most recent out-post at Roma are not enough to say any appointment at Newcastle is no shoo-in. 

Fonseca’s management style has previously been likened to Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel (right)

Player Henrikh Mkhitaryan may have drawn similarities between Fonseca and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who coached Mkhitaryan at Borussia Dortmund, but the Portuguese manager left with a fan-base underwhelmed.

Roma was to be his 10th managerial role in the last 14 years and as he left them seventh in Serie A, questions were asked over whether he quite had the nous to win titles in Europe’s top five leagues. Come the time of his sacking, the belief in Rome was that he couldn’t.

It may have been unfair but he was overseeing a Roma team that were treading water without really threatening to break the top four. 

It says something that he will perhaps be best remembered in the Italian capital for accidentally bringing on too many substitutes in a Coppa Italia clash. Roma lost the game 4-2 to Spezia, but would have been eliminated anyway after bringing on six players – one more than the allotted five. 

If Fonseca is to be the man for Newcastle expect goals, flair and a leaky defence… just make sure he has a coach to stop him overusing his bench when it matters most. 

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