Fulham bid “adeus” to a popular character this month when Luis Boa Morte left his coaching role to return to Portugal.
The former winger – who clocked up some 250 appearances during his playing days for the Whites – had been working with the Club’s youngsters, but opted to make the switch back to his homeland.
It’s a move that sees the 36-year-old’s career go full circle as he takes up a role at Sporting Lisbon, with whom he began his career prior to joining Arsenal in 1997.
“I’m assistant coach of the Under-21s at Sporting Lisbon – here we call it the ‘B’ team,” Boa told fulhamfc.com. “It’s a different role to the one I had at Fulham but I’m happy to be here as part of this project.
“It was a big decision for me and my family to come back to Portugal. It was something I’d been thinking about anyway and then the job came along and I accepted.
“I’m excited about the challenge. I’ve been here now for a couple of weeks and it’s been so far, so good, so I’m just looking forward to keeping going and carrying on.”
A previous incumbent of the Captain’s armband, Fulham has been a major part of Boa Morte’s career, most recently when creating a pathway into coaching – a statement of trust for which he was exceedingly grateful.
“I definitely enjoyed my time at Fulham,” he stated. “I had a six-month period to start with alongside Mark Pembridge and Colin Omogbehin – they made me feel really welcome and helped me a lot.
“Then I began working with the Under-21s as a kind of player-coach, as well as being assistant coach with the Under-13s. I enjoyed working with Kit Symons and Reedy [Sean Reed – U21 coach] a lot when I helped them deliver some sessions.”
The move back to Lisbon is the next step in Boa Morte’s long-term plan, with the 28-cap Portugal international keen to eventually break into management.
“In football you’re either ambitious or you’re not ambitious,” he explained. “I’ve always been ambitious and I want to reach as far as I can and go on to become a coach and manager.
“I need to look after myself so I thought the best way for me to improve and impart the best of my knowledge would be away to step out of Fulham, work my way up, and then maybe one day come back.”
One man who knows Boa Morte as well as anyone out on the pitch is Fulham’s Under-21 Manager Symons, with the pair first meeting when the young winger joined the Whites on loan ahead of the now infamous 2000/01 promotion campaign.
“I played with Boa under Jean Tigana,” Kit said. “He’d been struggling a bit at Southampton and was having a bit of a tough time, but he was a real breath of fresh air for us.
“He always had this massive smile on his face and was a great lad. He was a really good player, too. In his time at Fulham he massively matured and developed as a player. He got better and better as time went on and he ended up becoming Club Captain.”
Fast forward a decade or so and Boa Morte was back at Motspur Park, working closely with Symons as he looked to make the transition from player to coach.
Kit recalled: “A year or two ago, he asked if he could do a bit of training with my Under-21s as he was trying to prolong his career and was between clubs. He was an inspiration to my players.
“He was in his mid-30s then and he was the most enthusiastic one in training. I said to my boys, ‘look, he’s at the end of his career but he’s still got that love for the game. That’s what you need to make it at the top level.’
“After officially retiring, he started to help out on the coaching side of things for me and he was great to have around. He’s a great character with a good knowledge of the game.