"The glory moment is when you sign the contract; from then on the situation deteriorates," Carlos Queiroz once said, and perhaps Real Madrid's new coach might have reflected on those words as he stepped out of the Bernabeu yesterday evening.
The two-year contract Manchester United's assistant manager has signed with Real was lucrative and unrejectable, but it will finally test the qualities of a football man who to some has risen without trace and whose achievements do not match his reputation.
He has been chosen to succeed Vicente del Bosque, who delivered either La Liga or the European Cup every season he was at the Bernabeu, precisely because he represents the football manager as technocrat. "We are all human beings and have emotions, but success is about intelligence," he said recently. "We must be more focused on technical issues and not be involved in the emotional environment."
This is precisely what Real's president, Florentino Perez, wished to hear; less of the big team talks, more of the intense training sessions. According to Roy Keane, Queiroz's great achievement in his one season at Old Trafford was overhauling a defence which in 2001-02 had conceded more away goals than Charlton. He was also capable of surprising tactical innovations; it was his idea to pitch in Phil Neville as a midfielder when United overcame a debilitating injury list to beat Arsenal in December.
Many might see his appointment as a positive sign for David Beckham, but Queiroz was complicit in the decision to omit him from Manchester United's crucial games in favour of employing Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer on the right wing; a move entirely vindicated by results.
Sir Alex Ferguson gave Queiroz the warmest of references and yesterday he repaid the compliment. "He is a man of magnitude beyond comparison," he said of the United manager. "He is a real football person; more than that, he is football."
Like the Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, Queiroz is fiercely attracted to the analytical side of the game despite never having played professionally. At the age of 20, a year after an early marriage and after the trauma of his brother's death, he decided to give up being a goalkeeper in his native Mozambique and became a coach, although his main source of income was as a PE teacher, something that rankled with Bobby Robson when Queiroz replaced him as manager of Sporting Lisbon.
His first job brought him his greatest success and in the intervening posts, which have covered five continents, Queiroz has never matched the elation he felt when guiding young Portuguese talent to two successive World Youth Cups in 1989 and then, even more emotionally, in Lisbon two years later.
Based around the talents of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto, it was thought the triumphs would usher in years of dominance in Portuguese football, especially when Queiroz became the national coach. Instead, the talent was frittered away in a series of underwhelming displays. Far from dominating the stage, Portugal did not even qualify for the 1994 World Cup and Queiroz was fired. He has never quite lived it down.
"It is difficult for me to cope with the ugly feeling I have deep in my soul that there was some unfinished business; that I missed an opportunity that will never, ever happen again," he said. "A lot of times since it has depressed me to see what happened to the national team and what I regret most is that they lost a legacy and a vision we created."
More than any other club, Real Madrid will give Queiroz the opportunity to erase that sense of underachievement, although you wonder. Yesterday Perez said Queiroz "knew perfectly well what Real is all about". Real Madrid is all about winning and on his own Queiroz has not won much.
In November 1993 Sporting Lisbon were shockingly knocked out of the Uefa Cup by Casino Salzburg and, despite being top of the league, Robson was sacked. Queiroz's moment of truth came in the Lisbon derby with Benfica in May 1994; whoever won, took the title and Sporting were at home.
They were beaten 6-3, ripped apart by his protege Pinto. Two years later, Queiroz found himself in the United States, inheriting a wonderfully exciting New York MetroStars team only to see them lose in the play-offs to DC United. After departing for Japan, he delivered a report which to some observers implied American footballers were uncoachable.
Of his main tasks at the Bernabeu, Queiroz is well-qualified to overhaul the defence and hone a youth system that under Del Bosque produced Raul and Iker Casillas. However, although he has known Figo since he was 11, soothing the enormous egos ruffled both by Del Bosque's sacking and Beckham's signing may be more difficult.
Queiroz came to Old Trafford on the back of his resignation as manager of South Africa after long-running disputes with the country's greatest player and then technical director, Jono Somo, became unbearable during a woeful display in the African Nations Cup. South Africa were meticulously prepared, but were said to lack team spirit and shortly after delivering the line about the signing of a contract being the high point of a manager's career, Queiroz was gone. He must hope it is not his epitaph in Madrid.
FROM MOZAMBIQUE TO MADRID QUEIROZ'S PATH TO TOP
Born: 1 March 1953, Nampula, Mozambique.
1980: First job in football as youth-team coach at Lisbon club Olivais.
1984: Becomes assistant coach for the country's youth teams.
1987: Takes over as coach of Portugal's youth teams.
1989: Manages Portugal's under-20 side to World Youth Cup victory.
1991: Wins second World Youth Cup. Succeeds Artur Jorge as coach of national team.
1994: Stands down as national coach after team fail to qualify for World Cup finals. Leaves for Sporting Lisbon, who finish third, then second in his two full seasons in charge.
1996: Joins New York MetroStars as head coach in May before going to Japan to manage Grampus Eight.
1997: Returns to America as a consultant for the US Soccer Federation.
1998-99: Accepts an offer to coach the United Arab Emirates.
2000: Coach of South Africa who qualify for World Cup finals.
2002: Quits job on 12 March after defeat to Mali in African Nations Cup quarter-finals and a dispute with the team's technical director, Jomo Sono.
6 June: Joins Manchester United as assistant coach on a three-year contract.
2003: 25 June: Signs a two-year deal to become the new coach of Real Madrid.Reuse content