GdS: Zorro, video analysis and horses – behind the mask of Fonseca

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan officially announced the appointment of Paulo Fonseca as the new head coach earlier today, and a report has revealed a bit about the man behind the metaphorical and literal mask.

La Gazzetta dello Sport state that Fonseca is a patient, thoughtful, sometimes even media-oriented figure. The first time the press talked about him was because of a promise he made to a Ukrainian journalist.

On 6 December 2017, after beating Pep Guardiola’s City with his miracle Shakhtar, he showed up at the conference wearing the mask of Zorro, looking for the reporter to whom he had said more or less this: “If we qualify for the round of 16 of Champions I come dressed like this.”

Paulo got the better of Pep after watching Manchester all week, thanks to an obsession with video analysis that has accompanied him since his days with Pinhalnovense, the Portuguese third division team that twice took them to the cup quarter-finals.

He arrives at Milan after coaching Lille for two years, who finished last season in fourth place in the Ligue 1 table and were eliminated by Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Conference League.

He has a strong link to Italy, too. In 2017 he married Kateryna in a villa on Lake Como. In 2019, their first child, Martin, was born. A curious story is that the two met at Shakhtar. She was the assistant of Rinat Akhmetov, the president of the club who promoted Paulo.

In Ukraine he won three league titles with Shakhtar, as many cups and a Super Cup, sweeping away rivals Dinamo Kiev. One of his secrets developed during his time at Shakhtar was Max Nagorski, the trusted translator born in Portimao, Portugal.

Fonseca grew up in Portugal, but was born in Mozambique, in Nampula, a city of cashews and little football, a Portuguese colony until 1975. In 2005 he stopped playing, did some apprenticeship and six years later he was already in the second division with the Desportivo Aves, a village of 8,000 inhabitants.

He finished third and came close to promotion, but the feat was only postponed. In 2013, with Pacos de Ferreira, he finished third again and reaches the Champions League. The club’s best result in 60 years of history.

The first secret is leadership, as he revealed: “The way a coach solves things makes the difference. Managing influences behaviour, those who work with me know that they must be an active part.”

He plays a 4-2-3-1 with technical attacking midfielders who are good at making runs, full-backs that get up field and central defenders involved in build-up. He also gives video analysis and classroom lessons to the players, as if they were at school.

The trusted man, however, is Tiago Leal, who are “Paulo’s eyes”, a boy who grew up with Mourinho’s Porto and Football Manager, discovered while commentating on the United States-Portugal in 2014.

“He watched a video of mine by chance and thought that we had the same ideas. He had just signed for Pacos de Ferreira, he called me to his studio and we talked for two hours,” Fonseca revealed. Since that day he has always been next to him.

Another thing Fonseca loves horses, he owns a couple of them and keeps them at the Club Hipo do Norte in Esposende, about 40km west of Braga. They give him serenity, a bit like studying his opponents through dozens of videos.

Tags AC Milan Paulo Fonseca


  1. So, after this article are we supposed to like him a little bit more or what?

    Buy cheap, buy twice. We are gonna have Abate or Bonera as coach, hell maybe even Pioli back by December.

      1. I mean, learning that your teams new coach spent a week studying the tactics of the best manager in the world to beat him and it worked, and your response is “ugh, more data”, is just finding things to be mad about 😀

        You know that video analysis has been a cornerstone of coaching since the 80s right?

      2. You prefer stubborn piolis who will try 10 times the same (so-called) tactic to never learn from his mistakes like our former boss did against Inter? I’d take an analytic guy over a stubborn one-trick-pony any day.

        Some people just loooooove to complain and complain. And complain. Nothing is ever good enough.

    1. Love him or not, it’s your choice. It makes absolutely no difference. But some of us are positive and very optimistic because he’s a quality coach.

  2. The guy wears a Zorro mask after beating Pep. I’m sorry but this guy is actually Gona be alright at Milano lol let the good times roll again Forza Milan !!

  3. The Zorro against big teams while he’s on Serie A.

    Sep 1, 2019 Serie A SS Lazio – AS Roma – 1:1
    Sep 25, 2019 Serie A AS Roma – Atalanta BC – 0:2
    Oct 27, 2019 Serie A AS Roma – AC Milan – 2:1
    Nov 2, 2019 Serie A AS Roma – SSC Napoli – 2:1
    Dec 6, 2019 Serie A Inter Milan – AS Roma – 0:0
    Jan 12, 2020 Serie A AS Roma – Juventus FC – 1:2
    Jan 22, 2020 Italy Cup Quarter-Finals Juventus – AS Roma: 3:1
    Jan 26, 2020 Serie A AS Roma – SS Lazio – 1:1
    Feb 15, 2020 Serie A Atalanta BC – AS Roma: 2:1
    Jun 28, 2020 Serie A AC Milan – AS Roma – 2:0
    Jul 5, 2020 Serie A SSC Napoli – AS Roma – 2:1
    Jul 19, 2020 Serie A AS Roma – Inter Milan – 2:2
    Aug 1, 2020 Serie A Juventus – AS Roma – 1:3
    Aug 6, 2020 UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Sevilla FC – AS Roma – 2:0

    Sep 27, 2020 Serie A AS Roma – Juventus FC – 2:2
    Oct 26, 2020 Serie A AC Milan – AS Roma – 3:3
    Nov 29, 2020 Serie A SSC Napoli – AS Roma – 4:0
    Dec 20, 2020 Serie A Atalanta BC AS Roma – 4:1
    Jan 10, 2021 Serie A AS Roma – Inter Milan – 2:2
    an 15, 2021 Serie A SS Lazio – AS Roma – 3:0
    Feb 6, 2021 Serie A Juventus – AS Roma – 2:0
    Feb 28, 2021 Serie A AS Roma – AC Milan – 1:2
    Mar 21, 2021 Serie A AS Roma – SSC Napoli – 0:2
    Apr 22, 2021 Serie A AS Roma – Atalanta BC – 1:1
    Apr 29, 2021 UEFA Europa League Semi-Finals Manchester United – AS Roma – 6:2
    May 6, 2021 UEFA Europa League Semi-Finals AS Roma – Manchester United – 3:2
    May 12, 2021 Serie A Inter Milan – AS Roma – 3:1
    May 15, 2021 Serie A AS Roma – SS Lazio – 2:0

    Well, not really as interesting as his gimmick to say the least.

    1. So… He won some and he lost some. Interesting. Anyone wanna do a 7-page deep analysis on that? Or just let the guy start from scratch and see how he’ll manage this team this year? I’ll take the latter.

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