Portugal’s former coach takes over Poland’s national football team

Fernando Santos will appoint several Poles to work alongside him

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: dorzeczy.pl
Fernando Santos attends a news conference after being announced by the Polish Football Association as the new national football team coach in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

It was widely expected that Poland would appoint a foreign coach to manage its national football team, but it came as a surprise that the Polish FA managed to secure the services of such an experienced and successful coach as Fernando Santos, the outgoing coach of the Portugal national team. 

He replaces the outgoing Polish coach, Czesław Michniewicz, whose contract was not renewed despite the fact that during his one-year tenure, Poland managed to secure qualification in the World Cup playoffs against Sweden. In addition, at the World Cup finals, for the first time in 36 years, Poland made it out of the group stages into the knock-out round.

However, the style of play of the national team, the conflict between star player Robert Lewandowski and Michniewicz, and finally the fact that the coach negotiated potential bonuses for the team with the Polish prime minister without notifying the head of the Polish FA led to the decision to end Michniewicz’s term.

At a press conference at which Santos was officially introduced as the new coach, the Portuguese said that “from today, I am a Pole,” and announced that he would be moving to Poland for the duration of his contract. He promised he would watch Polish league games, something that a previous foreign Portuguese coach, Paulo Sousa, was accused of failing to do when he was briefly in charge of the national team.

In addition, it has been reported that Santos will appoint several Poles to work with him, something else Sousa avoided doing. This is important for the Polish FA so that less experienced Polish coaches can benefit from Santos’ ample experience. 

The contract authorized by the head of the Polish FA, Cezary Kulesza, will run until the end of the qualifying round for the World Cup in 2026.  Kulesza did not hide his pleasure at having secured the services of such a renowned coach, who is reported to be costing the Polish FA €3 million per year. He pointed to Santos’ charisma, experience, and success.

He was diplomatic enough not to mention that Santos made a controversial — although many described it as courageous — decision in the last World Cup by sidelining the great Cristiano Ronaldo to the substitutes bench. Polish star players better watch out — a coach has arrived who may not always field them if they are not playing well. 

Fernando Santos has been in football management since 1987. He managed the teams Sporting, Benfica Lisbon, and FC Porto in Portugal and Panathinaikos, AEK Athens, and PAOK Saloniki in Greece, but his biggest successes came when he started to manage national teams. He led Greece to a European Championship quarter-final in 2012 and the knock-out stages of the World Cup in 2014. He coached Portugal from 2014 until 2022, winning the European Championship in 2016 and the Nations League in 2019. He also took Portugal to a World Cup quarter-final in Qatar last year. 

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