Eighth placed Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters have managed to rope in former North East United manager Nelo Vingada for the rest of the season. Initially, the South Indian side was managed by their English gaffer David James who was in charge for 12 games, from where he managed a single win with five losses and six ties to achieve 9 points.
He was sacked right after Mumbai City FC humiliated them 6-1 at the Mumbai Football Arena with Moudou Sougou scoring four times and Rafael Bastos and Matias Mirabaje netting once each and Doungel scoring for the Blasters. The Keralite side has the potential to do well with the Indian defensive duo Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika and the likes of goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh and winger Holicharan Narzary, they were one of the best sides at the beginning of the season. David failed to put the pieces in place that resulted to Blasters sitting at the eighth spot.
Blasters management has taken a leap of faith and trusted the Portuguese man nicknamed ‘The Professor’ for the rest of the season.
Here we take a look at 5 things you should know about the Portuguese gaffer!
1) Nelo Vingada’s playing career:
It’s difficult to extract explicit information on Vingada’s playing career. Sources say he has played for three different clubs across a span of 15 years. He started his career with Atletico CP in 1964, before making the move to Sintrense in 1974. After a short one-year stint, he eventually shifted to one of Portugal’s oldest footballing institution, Belenenses. He spent four years with them, before retiring at an early age of 28.
2) Vingada’s managerial career:
Unlike his straightforward playing career, Vingada’s managerial career has been largely ceremonious. He started off by managing Belenenses, and went on to manage three other Portuguese sides namely Academica de Coimbra, Sintrense and Vilafranquense, before becoming Carlos Quieroz’s right-hand man at Portugal’s U-20 team. As a pair, they guided Portugal U-20 to two championship golds in 1989 and a1991, a third place finish in 1995, before inspiring the team to fourth spot at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
What followed after this stint was a pivotal moment in Vingada’s career. His first foray into Asian football arrived in 1996, when he was officially handed the task of spearheading Saudi Arabia’s national football team. He guided them to Asian Cup success in 1996 and went on to help the Falcons qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Unfortunately, he was sacked prior to the World Cup.
He spent a couple of seasons as an assistant coach to Graeme Souness at Benfica before taking over Maritimo for four years. His stint with them was largely topsy-turvy, though he did famously lead them into the Portuguese Cup final in 2001 only to lose to a Deco-led Porto side.
His next few managerial forays were in the Middle East, beginning with Egypt’s El Zamalek in 2003. In just his first season with the club, Vingada inspired them to a hat-trick of titles – winning the Egyptian Premier League, the Saudi-Egypt Super Cup as well as the prestigious African Super Cup. He became an instant hero with the fans, but even this was not enough as he was eventually sacked after falling out with several big name players within the team.
This was the beginning of a frustrating period in his career. He struggled to make an impression with Egypt’s U-23 team, resigned merely six weeks after taking over Wydad Casablanca in Morocco and punched the quit button yet again after failing to take Jordan past the first round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Then came the Persepolis stint in Iran, which only lasted a few months.
After a short gig back in Portugal coaching Vitoria de Guimaraes, Vingada was back in Asian football by 2010. This marked a major upturn in his career as he led FC Seoul to the K-League title for the first time in 10 years. He also won the K-League Cup in the same year. He left the Korean side after failing to agree a new deal, and signed for Chinese outfit Dalian Shide. But there was little Vingada could do over there, with plenty of off-field issues beleaguering the club. Sadly, Vingada turned out to be the final manager in the history of the club as it was dissolved and rebranded as Dalian Aerbin FC in 2012.
What came next was a reunion with Carlos Quieroz, who had accepted the Iranian national team gig at this point. Vingada helped Team Melli qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and then transitioned into becoming the Iranian U-23 team boss. The original deal was meant to be a two-year contract, but Iran’s disastrous outing at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games eventually led to his early dismissal in September 2014.
After taking a minor sabbatical, Vingada jumped into the ever-growing Indian Super League franchise, taking over NorthEast United FC in July 2016. But after a blistering start to the campaign, the Highlanders only managed to secure 5th spot under Vingada’s guidance. Next, he took charge of the Malaysian National football team in 2017 for a few months and left them because it did not suit his mind set. Now he is back in India with the Blasters and getting prepared to make an impact.
3) The Professor’s Career Highlights:
There’s very little doubt that Vingada has tasted success at various levels. His first taste of international success came during his Saudi Arabian stint. After getting thrashed 0-3 by Iran and finishing second in Group B of the 1996 Asian Cup, Vingada’s men went on to claim revenge by knocking Team Melli out in the semi-finals, before beating United Arab Emirates in the final. His short stint with Zamalek also proved to be a major positive note, with the Egyptian outfit rampaging past opponents en route to winning four different trophies across the span of two years. Then there’s the double success he accomplished in South Korea. In a year where almost every other Korean side opted for local head coaches, FC Seoul’s gamble on Vingada paid handsome dividends as he led them to the K-League title in emphatic style. Armed with Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic, he also inspired them to League Cup success in the same year.
Here is a list of things he accomplished as a manager:
a) Assistant Manager:
~FIFA U-20 World Cup- Champions: 1989, 1991
~FIFA U-20 World Cup- Third Place: 1995
~AFC Asian Cup- Champions: 1996
~Egyptian Premier League- Champions: 2002-03
~CAF Super Cup- Champions: 2003
~Saudi-Egyptian Super Cup- Champions: 2003
~Arab Champions League- Champions: 2003
~West Asian Football Federation Championship- Runners-up: 2008
~K League- Champions: 2010
~Korean League Cup- Champions: 2010
~Taca de Liga- Runners-up: 2015-16
4) Nelo’s Unique Managerial Style:
Nelo Vingada’s preferred style of football bears close resemblance to his place of birth, Serpa. Just like the defensive strength of all the castles that outline Serpa, he’s a fan of tight units, structured, disciplined and cautious-minded football – these are the common characteristics that can be observed in a large majority of his successful teams. He is never afraid to grind out results via counter-attacking football when it matters and believes in being a pragmatic football manager. These traits are widely recognized by key individuals in Asian football, including Carlos Queiroz, who reportedly holds Vingada in very high regard. He brought Vingada to work him him on two occasions (Portugal U-20 and Iran National Team) and unsuccessfully tried to make him Real Madrid’s assistant manager, when he landed the job back in 2003.
5) Is Nelo Vingada the right man for the Blasters?
There’s a need to manage high expectations at Kerala. David James managed the side in the first season and ended as runners-up. He did well, thus was summoned back in 2017-18 when they sacked Rene Meulensteen. But, David failed to restore any confidence into the side and the team ended in the 6th spot that season, and is sitting on the 8th spot this season, resulting in bidding farewell to their English gaffer. Steve Coppell is the only other successful manager at the club, with 41.18% wins, and finishing as runners-up in his season.
Nelo, on the other hand has not been brought to change the club’s football blueprint. He’s been hired to steady a sinking ship, based on his knowledge and experience in Asian football. Blasters’ fortunes have been on a decline over the last two seasons and Vingada’s main target will be to stop negative trajectory. His tactical approach may not go down too well with Keralite fans, but his pragmatic view and experience in dealing with the different rigours of Asian football could exactly be what the Yellow Army needs at this juncture. He is given a very less time period and will not be handed necessary support, but he just might be the best man for this job now, considering he was interested in taking over at this time of the team. Picking him has been a smart choice for the Blasters.