In the first big interview since he was presented as the new coach of the Sport Lisboa e Benfica football team, Jorge Jesus, for a little over an hour, talked about everything in an exclusive conversation with BTV at the Benfica Campus.
"When I start a pre-season, I don't go with a predetermined squad"
"This is a club where I've been for six years and where I'll be longer starting on Monday, which is when we start working on the pitch. It's with great satisfaction and pleasure that I'll start a new season with a squad of players, as I usually do, which is: when I start a pre-season, I don't go with a predetermined squad. I like to get to know the players better during the pre-season weeks, especially the first two weeks, because it's one thing to get to know a squad from outside, it's another to work with the players. Surely there are a lot of players who are going to start the season and are not here yet for the pre-season, and there are others who are going to start the pre-season and will have to leave. Some are coming out, some are coming in because it's like that in football."
"We must have two options for each position to change the team"
"Last year in Brazil, I played eighty-some games. We can be 25 players excluding the goalkeepers. There are more than two players per position, because we are going to face several competitions. With the goals set, which are to try to win all the competitions, we have to have two options for each position to change the team. Rotate the team, knowing that it doesn't lower the quality and intensity."
"My way of working and getting the message across is to make them think"
"There are field positions where there are no adaptations. A goalkeeper is always a goalkeeper. There are other positions where there can be versatility… In fact, that's the evolution in football. Football is evolving in that respect and I usually tell players that they have to know several positions on the pitch. That can happen to the midfielders, to the forwards... And that's what's going to happen, at least to me. My way of working and getting the message across is to make them think, and remember what we've worked on during the week to make tactical evolution different. I start playing one way and then I change the game system without making substitutions."
"We have to be coherent, objective and have the best players"
"All clubs must evolve and worry about their youth development, because it is a way to create assets for the future, but it does not give a team a sporting support in relation to its goals. There isn't a team in the world that thrives on their youth development. Let's look at Benfica. From the starting lineup, how many players from academy play as starters? One, Rúben Dias. Now, Benfica doesn't stop having valuable youngsters, who we have to work with and care for. They may not be the immediate options, but they are options for the future. What the fans want, Benfica fans and the from other clubs, is to win. Win with young players or not. What matters is to have good players, regardless of their nationality. We have to be coherent, objective and have the best players."
"Who wouldn't want Cavani?"
"Cavani doesn't need Jorge Jesus to call him. He is a player who should have several market possibilities and will be thinking about the best option for him. When I got to Benfica people were already talking about Cavani. If you ask me if I want Cavani, of course I do! Who doesn't want Cavani? In Portugal we have some difficulty competing financially with the big teams. We don't reach the Champions Finals because our best players are sold. In Portugal it is difficult to retain the best players. We have always been a country of great talent recruitment. Apart from Eusébio, we had Ronaldo, Figo and now we have João Félix, who's going to be one of the great players in the world. Ronaldo is a symbol for everyone. First for him is football, which is pleasure and passion. As for Cavani, of course I'd like to have him, but we know that financially it's not easy. There has to be financial engineering where the President is very strong. Cavani was already being talked about before I got to Benfica. The President is doing everything he can to make that happen, but he also has a sense of reality."
"This Board has made the Club breathe financial health"
"Today, Benfica breathes financial health, because it had a Board of Directors with a sportive and financial management that now, in Portugal, it is a club to invest in its team, while the others will have to cut back financially. We want to regain the hegemony of Portuguese football and recover Benfica's identity in Europe. And for that we have to have players."
"Luisão to pass on values and mystique"
"[Benfica Mystique] This is one of the topics that I, the President, Rui Costa and Tiago Pinto remembered, that we could include Luisão in our structure, as technical director, exactly to pass on values to these Benfica players, so that they realize that Benfica is a great club, a great institution. However, just to realize is not enough, they have to demonstrate."
"A more understanding person, but also a better coach"
"In the years I left Portugal I valued myself very much as a coach. Today I look at my coaching career in a different way and even my time in Saudi Arabia has taught me that in addition to being a coach you also have to know how to pass on values. In Brazil I also learned what a passion for football is! And that comes to meet what is my love and my passion for football. I also worked with great directors and all that made me a more understanding person, but also a better coach."
Text: João Sanches, Márcia Dores, Marco Rebelo and Sónia Antunes
Photos: Tânia Paulo and archive / SL Benfica