The 40-year-old left Shanghai SIPG last month after the club finished as runners-up in both the Chinese Super League and FA Cup. Having preceded his single-season spell in Asia with Russian Premier League and Cup successes at Zenit Saint Petersburg, Villas-Boas wants to return to coaching in one of Western Europe’s leading leagues.
Villas-Boas came close to accepting an offer from PSG to succeed a Real Madrid-bound Carlo Ancelotti in 2013, ultimately opting to continue into a second season at Tottenham. The proposal came from club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, whom the Portuguese knew well from working together for the Al Jazeera Media Network. PSG were ready to use a £10 million release clause in his contract with the English Premier League club.
“With Nasser, we have respect for each other,” said Villas-Boas later that year. “That PSG approached me was released (publicly), but I wanted to stay a second year in Tottenham, building on the work of last season, making two consecutive seasons in the same club for the first time in my career. I wanted to continue the project here.”
Villas-Boas’ relationship with Antero is closer still, stretching back to two spells working together at Porto, the first as an assistant to Jose Mourinho, the second as coach of their 2010-11 Primeira Liga, Taca de Portugal and Europa League treble winning team. Villas-Boas and the sporting director’s friendship is such that they have taken family holidays together.
PSG have been unimpressed with Emery’s handling of an already expensively assembled squad that was supplemented with the global record signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the summer. Neymar’s working relationship with Emery has been particularly fractious, including a public dispute over set-piece duties, absence from two unappealing away games with what the club described as minor injuries, and a complaint from the Brazil international that he should be allowed to choose which fixtures he plays in.
A broader discontent among the PSG squad fed into successive losses at Racing Strasbourg and Bayern Munich at the beginning of this month. Al-Khelaifi responded to the Ligue 1 and Champions League losses (the first of the Parisians’ campaign) with a public statement of Qatar’s dissatisfaction.
“We didn’t perform,” said Al-Khelaifi after the 3-1 defeat in Germany. “I am very disappointed about the result, the quality of our play, especially in the first half. I am optimistic for the future, but we didn’t play as well as we could have done in this match. It is a lesson for everybody.”
Antero has been working on securing a replacement for Emery for months, and has made it clear that there are jobs for Mourinho and his highly-valued assistant Rui Faria in Paris in the summer should they want them. Since Oryx Qatar Sports Investments took control of PSG in the summer of 2011, Mourinho has been offered, and turned down, the opportunity to manage on at least three occasions, and was very close to taking the job in 2016 before eventually agreeing terms with Manchester United.
While Antero is aware that Mourinho remains the preferred option of his employers, he has also prepared alternative appointments, as well as a contingency plan to replace Emery mid-season should results or team harmony demand it. Villas-Boas — who is understood to be ready to take a project like PSG’s on an initial short-term contract if necessary — would be a good fit to such circumstances. Antero has asked his friend not to accept an offer from any other suitor without first informing him.
At present, Villas-Boas is preparing to fulfil a long-held ambition to drive the Dakar Rally. The car and motorcycle enthusiast has been registered as Ruben Faria’s co-driver for the 15-day rally, which begins in Peru on Jan. 6.