Liverpool recently appointed Vitor Matos as the club’s elite development coach, but who is the new face in the backroom team?
Current assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders previously occupied the position, acting as the bridge between the academy and the senior set up.
And with Jurgen Klopp eager to continue to keep the pathway from the youth ranks to the first team open, the search for a new development coach got underway.
Vitor Matos was the man chosen to take the mantle, following Lijnders’ footsteps in making the move from FC Porto to Merseyside.
Having worked predominantly behind the scenes throughout his career, Matos is an unknown figure to many—so here is all you need to know about Liverpool’s new coach.
From Porto to China & Back Again
Despite being at the younger end of the age spectrum for a coach, 31, Matos has been in the system for over 11 years, having garnered experience primarily in his native Portugal.
His career prior to his arrival at Liverpool has seen him accrue titles in the youth system which include: technical director and coordinator, head coach, performance analyst, opposition scout and assistant coach.
His journey started at Clube Futebol Valadares in 2008 before he joined Clube Desportivo Trofense a season later, as a head coach for the under-16s and 18s while overseeing the under-13s as technical director.
And, having accumulated three seasons of experience under his belt, he earned the attention of Porto—whose first team had secured the Primeira Liga title the season prior—at just 23 years of age.
The 2011/12 campaign saw Matos take over as the under-10s head coach and under-15s assistant coach, which he worked alongside his role as opposition scout for the under-19s. This lasted a single season, as he quickly advanced to Porto’s B team.
In the years which followed, Matos moved up the youth ranks as a head coach as he added the U12s and U14s to his resume, all the while simultaneously advancing as an assistant coach having progressed from the U15s to U17s.
Throughout this time within Porto’s youth ranks he worked with and helped develop the likes of Wolves’ Ruben Neves, Man United’s Diogo Dalot and Milan loanee Andre Silva.
In total, Matos worked within Porto’s youth ranks for five years before he made a bold move to China, a period which overlapped with Lijnders’ time with the Portuguese outfit where he played a significant role in restructuring their academy alongside his work as a youth coach from 2007 to 2014.
Moreover, in 2016 Matos switched the north of Portugal for the north of China to work as the youth technical director and the U16 coach at Shandong Luneng Taishan FC—where he led his side to the Chinese national title and SuperLeague championship in his second season.
Matos, who is fluent in Portuguese and English, had conceded at the time that “the language barrier is a problem because our translators have difficulty understanding football.”
And while the ability to easily communicate proved to be a new challenge in his burgeoning career, it will have undoubtedly led to a level of growth which he may not have experienced had he remained in Portugal.
But with his star continuing to rise, he returned to Porto ahead of the 18/19 season to work as the assistant coach for Porto B, under the tutelage of Rui Barros who had previously played for Juventus and Porto before acting as both assistant and caretaker manager for the Portuguese side’s senior side.
Just one year in and Liverpool would come calling, however, to once again see him leave Porto behind for another challenge on foreign soil.
‘Young, Smart & Experienced’
Matos, who has a Masters in sport science and physical education and holds a UEFA Elite Youth A License, will now oversee the development and transition of Liverpool’s young stars from the academy to the senior side.
The appointment comes less than a year prior to the opening of the Reds’ new training ground in Kirkby, which will see both the first team and the academy train at the same site.
Matos will be responsible for assisting the likes of Leighton Clarkson, Sepp van den Berg, Harvey Elliott, Ki-Jana Hoever and Curtis Jones and will be keeping a close eye on the emerging talent throughout the age groups.
Klopp is confident Liverpool’s young players will reap the benefits from Matos’ appointment.
“[He’s] an outstanding coach. Young and experienced, you don’t get that a lot. A kind of guy who is used to having six or seven sessions a day,” Klopp stated upon his arrival.
“He is smart, his English is very good – which is obviously important – and he has worked at different clubs, but is educated at Porto, which is good for us because Pep is from there as well.
“He had made his own experience already and now we can all get the benefit of that. It will be great for the boys 100 per cent.”
Finally, while Matos has proven to have an eye for talent throughout his career, he also possesses an abundance of knowledge on tactical periodisation, a coaching method developed by Portuguese professor Vitor Frade and made famous by Jose Mourinho.
It is a training process that aims to ensure players react quicker and sharper at crucial points of a game by breaking down the barriers between physical, technical and tactical conditioning.
Earlier this year, Matos even travelled to Australia to present the method at their International Football Coaching Conference.
It’s further evidence that Liverpool have brought a highly skilled and intelligent coach on board and, alongside Lijnders, Klopp, Peter Krawietz and those at the academy, the Reds’ youth is certainly in safe and capable hands.