Andre Villas-Boas has told L'Equipe he moved out from the shadow of Jose Mourinho because 'The Special One' did not "feel the need to have someone next to him" to achieve success.
Ahead of Saturday's Premier League London derby between Tottenham and Chelsea, Villas-Boas gave an interview with the French daily speaking about the man he will face at White Hart Lane this weekend.
The 35-year-old followed Mourinho from Porto to Chelsea and Inter Milan, helping his fellow Portuguese establish a lengthy list of honours and an unimpeachable reputation. However, the pair split at the start of the 2009-10 campaign when Villas-Boas' desire to make a name for himself in the game led him to take charge of Academica Coimbra.
"I was never his number two," he said. "I was part of his staff, but I was never his assistant. That's one of the reasons we went our separate ways. I thought I could give him a lot more, but he didn't feel the need to have someone next to him. So I decided to give myself freedom and think about my career, which wasn't difficult. Yes, there are similarities: Porto, Chelsea. But he has had a lot of success at Chelsea and I didn't have a good experience there."
Having subsequently coached Porto himself, where he won a Treble of league, domestic cup and the Europa League in his single season in charge, and then moved on to Chelsea, parallels are inevitable between the current Spurs coach and the man many see as his mentor, even if Villas-Boas, who admitted not having regular contact with Mourinho, struggles to come to terms with them.
"The comparisons are difficult to accept for different reasons. When you start your coaching career, everyone looks at where you come from. I learned with Jose Mourinho, but I'm completely different to him in terms of personality, way of working and communication. We have different philosophies. Of course, Jose has been very important in my career, he's enabled me to step back and look at things, and given me experience that I would not have been able to have with anyone else. We had a super working relationship, we won, but as soon as we parted ways, I started doing things my way. The comparisons come from the media. And the first difference is our personalities."
A further major difference is their success at Chelsea. While Mourinho was hailed as a saviour upon his return to Stamford Bridge this summer after taking the Blues to the Premier League title twice in three years, it is unlikely Villas-Boas would get the same reception should he follow suit.
Though Chelsea paid Porto €15 million in compensation to bring him and his burgeoning reputation to West London, Villas-Boas' tenure was undermined by squad discontent over the coach's handling of the club's star players. Though it proved a chastening nine months, Villas-Boas insists it was beneficial.
"Chelsea was an experience for me because it allowed me to understand that there are certain things I cannot do. There, I was the same coach as I was at Porto. I had a direction I wanted to go in and I wanted the team to follow. But I didn't get enough support to be able to follow that direction. Finally, it turned out to be a good thing, because that experience taught me a lot, and today at Tottenham, I do things differently," he explained.
"My past at Porto gave me advantages and disadvantages. I had principles, values, and I'm very stubborn, I don't change them. I learned at school that the team is more important than any player. So I try to defend the team over any individual. But today I'm more flexible, I perhaps handle things better with key players. I treated everyone the same way at Chelsea. Only, to be able to stick to that line, you need the support of the club, and you don't find that everywhere. At Porto, yes."
Villas-Boas rejected suggestions he had been too young to take charge of such a major club.
"I took the decision to go there when I felt ready for that. I was ready for that kind of challenge," he said, and has begun to rebuild his tarnished reputation at Spurs, narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification last season and making an excellent start to the current campaign.
Having had a nomadic career so far, Villas-Boas may have been expected to answer positively to the approach of Paris Saint-Germain last summer with the Ligue 1 champions seeking to replace Carlo Ancelotti. However, though he admitted PSG's immediate ambitions outstrip those of his current club, he revealed his desire to continue making forward strides at White Hart Lane had kept him on the English side of The Channel.
"That PSG approached me has been made public. But I wanted to stay for a second season at Tottenham, building on the work done last season and have two seasons in a row at the same club for the first time in my career," he said, acknowledging that Spurs had "followed me on a number of points", including taking on technical director Franco Baldini.
"PSG are undergoing changes that Tottenham has already done. Tottenham is a step ahead. They're two clubs that have won titles. But it's certain that their ambition, given the recent investment in PSG over the last two years, is to win the Champions League. Us, our ambition, is to participate in it."