Miguel Moita is a Soccer Analyst at Al-Hilal SFC and has recently won the 2021 Asian Football Confederation Champions League. In the second part of this exclusive interview, the instructor of the “Building a philosophy – Team identity and Soccer Analysis“ online course at Soccer HUB analyzes the blossoming of young talents in the teams he has represented, shows how the final game against Pohang Steelers was prepared and reflects on his plans of becoming a head coach.
The Al Hilal’s SFC analysis department divides their observation process between live matches and video recordings. While admitting the richness of detail that can be extracted from in loco observation, he believes it is not a sine qua non condition for performing satisfactory work. “There are always supplementary factors that catch your attention in a live game: the involvement of the fans, how the team warms up, how their players are connected, etc. We try to make at least one live observation of the teams, even if it is not on the stadium we are going to play. In cases you have a long-shot recording of the match, I believe it turns out not to be that important to go and watch it in loco. If you can analyze all the dynamics, you can do a decent job and convey accurate information. When I decide to see a game – live or on the computer – I like to have some previous information to comprehend what kind of team we are going to face and which aspects I should pay more attention to. At a later stage, I can change my mind a little because it is necessary to align my perception with the information I receive from the people who work with me”, he said.
Within his analysis work, what excites him most is making the transfer to training and, subsequently, to the game. “What gives me the most pleasure is, with each opponent, being able to work on the collected information, communicate it to the coach, and see him applying it on the pitch with a more tactical-strategic exercise and see that working in the game. Sometimes you can catch similar opponents, but they have a nuance that ends up shaping your weekly tactical work”.
Although in different periods and contexts, we have witnessed the blossoming of young talents in clubs he represented, such as AS Monaco – Kylian Mbappé, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar – and Sporting CP – Cédric Soares, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho. In addition to skill, he considers that a strong mentality is crucial for the athletes’ success. “There is a common practice of considering any 17, 18, and 19 year old technically gifted player a star. Throughout my 15-year career, I have realized that many of them have not even reached a significantly high level and are already declining. This kind of label at an early phase of a player’s career makes me extremely confused since we all know that it is crucial to give them time to mature, work with the team, make mistakes, learn, and be corrected. In my end-of-graduation monography, I tried to study why there is so much success in the Sporting CP Youth Academy. All coaches and members of the academy stressed the importance of the mental factor, associated with the personality of each player. When they accumulate matches without playing, it is essential to train in the same way every time. This is what makes players manage to keep themselves at the highest level”.
There are athletes who have a lot of attitude and performance swings on a mesocycle, for a year or even a week. We have the recognition for having developed them, but the credit is also theirs because they knew how to listen, continued to work, and remained mentally strong.
There has been a pattern since the beginning of his professional career: Miguel has always been part of Leonardo Jardim’s technical staff, and the evaluation of his experience has been very positive so far. “He is a person with a winning mentality, coherent, fair in his daily work, pragmatic and assertive. Our personal and professional relationship has evolved since the beginning, and Leonardo ends up making my work as an analyst a lot easier”.
On November 23, Al-Hilal SFC won their fourth Asian Football Confederation Champions League after a 2-0 win over the South Korean side Pohang Steelers in Riyadh. The match preparation was fundamentally based on the previous games of the competition against Persepolis FC and Al-Nasr SC. “These are teams with a common characteristic: they apply pressure a little higher. We tried to take action against Pohang Steelers’ construction phase, with our midfielder exerting pressure on their midfielder that usually came to get the ball in the central midfield. We scored a goal 17 seconds after the beginning of the match [the fastest ever scored in the competition’s final], which ended up switching things slightly, but we had also prepared a build-up without taking risks and exploring mostly the right and left sides. That goal made us feel comfortable, with a more favorable emotional countenance. It turned out to be a very positive game for us. We managed to control the operations very well, and we were very competent”.
Miguel believes that the 2021 Asian Football Confederation Champions League trophy, which established a new record in the competition, was the most important of his professional career. “It was, without a doubt, the most important trophy of my career. On top of that, it was an international title and the first won by a Portuguese coach. It is a huge achievement. Being part of it was fantastic and something I will never forget”.
The Portuguese analyst has never hidden his ambition to become a head coach in the future, even though he is focused on his work as a member of Leonardo Jardim’s staff. “I am feeling more and more prepared [to become a coach]. The reality is that when I was without a club, nothing that led me to leave this project and work together with Leonardo Jardim came up. The relationship I have with Leonardo is very frank and objective. When that possibility arises, I know I will have complete openness on his side to start my career as a head coach”.
I would like to put my ideas into practice, to see how far my leadership skills can go and make a group of players and people operate towards a common goal.
“Having that opportunity would make me happy, but it is not an unmeasured ambition at the moment. I will not leave this synchrony I have with Leonardo to go into any project. It has to be an ambitious project, with some solid background”.
He reinforced the importance of training for the professional success of all those who aspire to join and consolidate a career within the football world. “None of us are fully trained. We learn both from psychologists, training methodologists, analysts, etc. It is not by chance that we see coaches who were football players feeling the need for this complement. The UEFA Pro course is fantastic, but it turns out to be mandatory, and that is why coaches are doing another type of training. We have the case of Rúben Amorim, for example, who underwent training at the Faculty of Human Kinetics of the University of Lisbon, because he realized, perhaps, that his experience as a top player would not be enough to reach a high level. There are several ways to reach the top, but the training will always be there. What you do at Soccer HUB is fantastic because it gives worldwide access to a wide range of courses in an easy way”, the former analyst of AS Monaco, Olympiacos FC, Sporting CP and SC Braga concluded.