Portugal have appointed Carlos Queiroz as their head coach for a second time. The 55-year-old leaves his position as Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's right-hand man to succeed Luiz Felipe Scolari, who vacated the hot-seat after UEFA EURO 2008 to take over at Chelsea.
"The Portuguese Football Federation has the pleasure to announce that Carlos Queiroz is the new national team coach," read a statement on the organisation's official website. "The Portuguese coach has a four-year contract and will be presented on Wednesday."
Queiroz said: ". I am very proud and honoured to be able to go back and serve my country. This is a very special position that any professional would want. I would like to thank Manchester United for agreeing to let me go."
The Red Devils won the Premier League and UEFA Champions League titles earlier this year, and Ferguson attributed much of this success to his number two. "Carlos is improving a lot of things," said the Scot after United's penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in the continental decider. "I am a bit of a dinosaur in that respect. I have recognised progress needed to be made in different areas that I am expert at.
"The levels we are going to now are unbelievable. Carlos has increased it in all sorts of ways. The entire medical side is fantastic. I don't think there is anywhere better in the world now. That is all down to Carlos' vision of the future which I would not have had."
High praise indeed for a man who has just ended his second stint as assistant manager of United, in between which he took charge of Real Madrid during their disappointing 2003/04 season. Queiroz also has international coaching experience, having had an unavailing spell at the Portugal controls, led United Arab Emirates in 1999 and South Africa for two years from 2000. He did, in fact, guide the Bafana Bafana into the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, but resigned before the finals.
Queiroz will now be charged with qualifying Portugal, who finished fourth at Germany 2006, for the next FIFA World Cup in 2010. They have been drawn in Group 1 alongside Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania and Malta, and will kick off their campaign against the latter on 6 September. A Selecção das Quinas are currently ninth on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
"Carlos Queiroz is without doubt a benchmark of excellence for Portuguese football coaches and he was my first choice for the job," said Portuguese Football Federation president Gilberto Madail.
Queiroz cut his teeth as assistant coach of Estoril-Praia, before guiding Portugal to glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Saudi Arabia 1989. But if that side was renowned for being efficient, keeping five clean sheets in six matches en route to gold, the one that defended their world youth crown on home soil two years later captured the hearts of the football purists. Then, a team inspired by Manuel Rui Costa, Luis Figo and Joao Pinto, future mainstays of the senior Portugal line-up, and dubbed the ‘golden generation' excited throughout with their pass-and-move football.
The former little-known forward then took charge at Lisbon giants Sporting, before his career took him briefly to the USA and New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now known as New York Red Bull) in 1996, and Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus Eight thereafter.
It was, however, at the South African reins where Queiroz began to attract the attention of the European club heavyweights, and when he became available in March 2002, Manchester United lured him to Old Trafford to assist Ferguson, who had been uncharacteristically without a right-hand man since Steve McClaren stepped down the previous summer to become Middlesbrough manager.
Queiroz accepted a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to coach Real Madrid in mid-2003, and when the Spanish giants sacked him after just one season, Ferguson quickly persuaded the United board to offer him back his previous position at the club. The Mozambique-born coach readily accepted and his impressive work has now earned him a chance he has long desired.
Portugal finished as runners-up to Greece at EURO 2004, lost 1-0 to France in their 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-final, and were beaten 3-2 by Germany in the last eight at EURO 2008 last month. The squad that fell short in Austria and Switzerland possessed some highly-rated young talents, namely Ricardo Quaresma, 24, and Manchester United pair Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, 21 and 23 respectively.
Queiroz must now attempt to exude the best from his talented cast and mastermind the capture of the Portuguese national team's first major trophy. He is not, however, taking a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup for granted. "The first big objective is to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa," he told the Portuguese Football Federation's official website.