Vitor Matos: 'Connector' between Liverpool's Academy and first team
Written by Simon Austin — November 19, 2019
VITOR MATOS was appointed as Liverpool’s Elite Development Coach in October - a role which had been vacant since Pepijn Lijnders left in January 2018.
This position is becoming more and more common in top-level football. The idea is that the Development Coach smoothes the transition from Academy to first team for the club’s best youngsters by working with them individually.
In a wide-ranging interview with Liverpool’s official website, Matos explained his role at Liverpool. You can read an abridged version below.
Vitor Matos: My first idea when I arrived was that I needed to know every one of the Under-18 and U23 players and discuss, ‘What’s the big idea for him?’
I needed to know which person I need to speak to and work with to achieve this. Right now, before I came here, I was in a meeting with (Academy Manager) Alex Inglethorpe, (U23 boss) Neil Critchley and (U18 boss) Barry Lewtas and we discussed each player detail by detail - where they are at the moment, what we expect in the future.
These kind of things are great because I feel that all the persons in the club are really working hard to help the players’ development in all the best ways and with high standards.
One of my major goals when I arrived was to know the Academy staff as well as I know the Melwood staff, especially Alex and the coaches that are responsible for the training sessions. More than talking, it’s about creating an environment of trust and an environment that can help everyone - especially, in the end, the players.
Being the club’s connector is involved with the role because we have to make sure information goes around the different departments properly.
For example, with a player who trains at Melwood and then plays at the Academy, the question is what happened here in the training session that we need to continue at Kirkby? So he is not only doing it at Melwood. How we can work that, that’s my main role.
My biggest goal is to create development. You can create development in different ways, but the most important thing is that you understand football as a collective game.
It’s something that is built on the interactions between the players and these interactions are related to your way of playing, to your identity, so you can see: ‘Ok, this is Liverpool’s way of playing.’
These game ideas and this way of playing will force the individual development of the players. My role is to say: ‘Ok, we have these Academy players. How can we help them learn the game ideas of the first team and how can we use those game ideas to continue their individual development?’
KLOPP ‘IMPACTS EVERYTHING’
Working with Jürgen is like having a masterclass.
I am very pleased and happy for the opportunity to work with the best. Really, Jürgen is not only about understanding football, a player or a youth player, he is more than that, it is how he understands life and its values.
For me, this fascinating way of seeing things is unbelievable, it’s really unbelievable. Normally, we say that the character of the team is the character of the coach and we can see Jürgen’s impact on everything in the club.
The way he is as a person makes an influence on the training sessions, in the pre-match meetings, on the environment at Melwood.
There is a famous doctor in Portugal who says, ‘They who only know about medicine, don’t know anything about medicine’ and I say that a coach who only knows about football doesn’t know anything about football. Jürgen is the perfect example of that.
The way he fills all the game ideas, all the tactical principles, all the team organisation with passion and with love is amazing because that is what gives you the way of playing. It’s been really amazing to work with him.
For me, for a player to improve and to learn, we need to touch their heart - especially if he’s a young player and with that, Jürgen is incredible. The way he talks with the young players, the way he understands the player, the way he understands the human being behind the player, it’s absolutely massive.
For sure it makes my job easier, because the environment that he and all the technical staff create here is amazing for the development of players. We can see the development of the first team in the last years and with these first-team players we also have all the young players that are coming through, which is brilliant.
(Lijnders is Klopp’s assistant and previously held the Elite Development role. He and Matos also worked together at Porto).
It’s amazing for me to have the opportunity to work with Pep again because more than a friend, he’s a source of inspiration [with] the passion that he puts into his work, the professionalism that he has, his pursuit for improving a little detail in training sessions or in the team.
It’s unbelievable to be here [with him] again. I’ve known him for more than nine years so he knows that I am here for whatever he needs and I know he is there for whatever I need. We have this kind of relationship so it is really good.
When we look to a player, we should look to him as a whole.
Yes, we need to see how the player is performing on the pitch, but we know that for his development, sometimes the most important thing is not a training session. It can be something about where he is living, with who he is living, how he is eating, how his social life is.
Knowing these things will help not only to have a perspective of the player but also to understand how he is feeling and doing in his life. This is something that I am also really focused on trying to know.
The last house I visited was Sepp van den Berg’s and also for the players, for them to know that someone from the first-team technical staff is concerned with how he is living as well as his football life, that is important.
They will feel that the club takes care of them and we want them to feel that they are a Liverpool player and that being a Liverpool player is different than being a player at another club in Europe.
THE FUTURE: EVERYONE ON ONE SITE
The new building and the new infrastructures will be absolutely massive for us. It will help a lot, especially with the flow of information, and it will be very easy to work.
In the same facility we will have first-team players and staff and the talents of the Academy, so they can have these role models near them and that is absolutely amazing.
This is the kind of place where you can create a culture, where you can start something really special that will give stability and consistency to all the processes in the club.
The goal is that we create, or continue the creation of, a new generation of players that will allow the club to move forward while also keeping its high standards. It will be very important to be here, because at any opportunity they can perform for the first team - and, at the same time, it’s a way of creating a great relationship between the first team and the Academy.
I believe that a big club with a big history and a big culture always needs to look to the future because if one of the things that is really difficult to achieve is success, it is even more difficult to keep this for a long period of time.
We have a project where we are building from the youth players to give sustainability for the club, and I am trying to help everyone to achieve this. It’s just amazing to be here and to be a part of it.
Everyone is working hard to see one player from the Academy in the first team, like Trent. The process that Trent Alexander-Arnold had was unbelievable because he started here as a young player and finished in the first team, so this is the kind of project that we need to find. A perfect project.
You can read the original article, which these quotes were taken from, here.