Few coaches boast a CV as remarkable as Luiz Felipe Scolari's. At club level, he lifted the Brasileirao trophy and won the Copa Libertadores with two different teams. On the international front, he masterminded Brazil's 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ conquest and guided Portugal to the final of UEFA EURO 2004.
Scolari raised some eyebrows in July, though, when he assumed the reins at Bunyodkor, who are, courtesy of an admirable unbeaten run under the 60-year-old, cruising to a successful defence of their Uzbek League crown. However, Felipão has a greater challenge on his hands: to lead the Tashkent side to the AFC Champions League title and a place at December's FIFA Club World Cup.
As next month's quarter-final with Pohang Steelers approaches, FIFA.com spoke to Scolari about coaching Bunyodkor, the differences between European, Asian and South American football, and his ambitions for the future.
FIFA.com: Felipão, after coaching prestigious sides such as Brazil, Portugal and Chelsea, why did you chose to go to Uzbekistan?
Luiz Felipe Scolari: Rivaldo suggested it to me. He had already been here almost a year at the time. I already knew about the structure of the club and was fascinated by the ambition of the Bunyodkor chiefs. A project of this scale is a fantasy!
What do you make of the Uzbek League?
Honestly, I didn't know too much about it until Rivaldo went there. But now I can tell you a lot. Obviously, Bunyodkor and Pakhtakor are much stronger than the rest of the teams here, and they battle it out for the title. If three or four teams can begin to compete against these two giants, Uzbek football will progress at a rapid rate. Uzbekistan have a lot of talented youngsters, and they qualified for this year's U-20 World Cup in Egypt. I think in four to five year's time, the senior national team will start making big waves. In the meantime, Uzbekistan should be playing a lot of friendlies against European and South American opposition.
How important is football in Uzbekistan?
I have only spent a short time in this friendly country, but I already know that football means a lot to the people here. I think Uzbekistan has a big future. As I said, the U-20 side have reached the World Cup - this speaks volumes. Uzbek players will really start to make waves in the near future. Bunyodkor made international headlines by claiming to be on the verge of signing Samuel Eto'o.
Although this proposed transfer didn't transpire, do you envisage other major stars moving to Uzbekistan in the future?
I can tell you nothing about the Eto'o deal, but I would like to bring some big stars to Bunyodkor in the near future. We are on the lookout. Time will tell.
What is different between South American, European and Asian football?
In Europe, more attention is paid to tactics. In South America, there is more improvisation. Asian football is not at the same level yet, but football here is half tactical, half technical. It's more similar to the South American style than the European.
How has football changed over the past 20 years?
Business plays a much greater role in the modern game. It's all about making money. Footballers constantly swap clubs. Previously, players were worried about being cast as mercenaries. But there have also been some pleasing improvements in science, technology and marketing. These spheres are now an integral part of game. And coaching has been developed significantly. Today, teams rely far more heavily on their coach.
Do you plan on returning to Europe in the near future?
I have an 18-month contract with Bunyodkor. After that, perhaps. Maybe I will extend my stay here, maybe I won't. But then I dream of returning to Brazil, where I want to end my career - only after that will I retire. However, if one of my sons expresses an interest to study at a university in Europe, then it would be necessary for me to work in Europe.
Is coaching at next year's FIFA World Cup an option for you?
I doubt it will happen. The World Cup in South Africa is not part of my plans.
Who do you currently consider the world's best side in international and club football respectively?
As a Brazilian, it's an easy question to answer - I always think Brazil has the best national team. I think Barcelona are the best team at club level. They play such beautiful football.
Finally, what are your aims for the future?
I always aspire to achieve the maximum possible. So, with Bunyodkor, I want to win every tournament we participate in, especially the Asian Champions League.