While Dean Smith continues to divide opinion, the other coach Aston Villa reportedly considered as Steve Bruce’s successor is going from strength to strength.
According to the Telegraph, Villa held talks with Bruno Lage before handing boyhood fan Smith his dream job in October. A former assistant coach at Swansea City and Sheffield Wednesday, the 42-year-old was then in charge of the Benfica B team.
And it is claimed that Lage was very close to taking over in the Midlands before they decided to put their faith in Smith instead. Five months on, the former Brentford boss has led Aston Villa to eleventh in the table, a horrible wobble in and around Christmas ruining their early progress.
Lage, however, is living the dream in his native Portugal.
He got his big break in January, replacing Rui Vitoria as Benfica’s first-team manager on an interim basis. Since then, however, he has presided over a remarkable run of results with the Eagles winning 12 of their last 14 games, including a 10-0 thrashing of Nacional that was the club’s biggest win since 1964.
To make things even more impressive, Lage guided Benfica to their first ever win on Turkish soil in the Europa League round of 32 victory at Galatasaray.
But their stand-out result under Lage came on Sunday. Goals from Joao Felix and Rafa Silva sealed a dramatic 2-1 Classico win at bitter rivals and reigning champions FC Porto – a victory that saw Benfica leapfrog their opponents into first place in the table.
It is fair to say Lage won’t be pining for Aston Villa.
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