Pedro Emanuel talks to SPL Extra: Life in Saudi Arabia, influence of Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo impact and what makes Al Khaleej so special
Saudi Arabia holds a special place in Pedro Emanuel’s managerial career.
The 48-year-old accepted a third stint in Roshn Saudi League last summer, at promoted Al Khaleej. This follows previous spells with Al Taawoun and Al Nassr.
A continued battle against relegation has ensued – and it’s one the former Porto defender firmly believes they have every chance of winning.
Read what Emanuel had to say on SPL Extra.
Describe your life in Saudi Arabia
“We come here to work. Mainly, our days are very long in the club.
“But, normally, I like to enjoy the culture, also.
“I take some time for making the gym in the morning, because in the afternoon I like to do the work.
“On the other occasions when we have time after training, because we live in a very beautiful city that has everything, we can enjoy the social life also after the training in the normal days, going out for dinner, enjoying [living] near the sea, to have some walks, to enjoy these beautiful nights that we have from now.
“This is something that makes the difference, especially in the way that we live our day. Not only work, but enjoying what Dammam and especially Khobar, where I live, have to give to us.”
What makes Al Khaleej a special club?
“First, because I have a fantastic relationship with the management, with the board. The persons that bring me here know it is going to be a big challenge for us, for them and for me.
“When they invited me, they knew the way we have to be. They trust in our work.
“We know it has been a difficult season, because returning to the Pro League is never easy for any club.
“We know that it is going to be until the end that we are going to fight. But the most important for me is the relationship that I build with the board, with the management, with the players and also with the fans.
“Because even though I’d like to have more fans with us, we are fighting to bring more fans to see our games.
“I believe that until the end, they will trust us. They trust until now and we are going to get our goal, to make everyone happy in this important moment for the history of Al Khaleej.”
You played under Jose Mourinho. How big an influence has he been on your managerial career?
“A very good question, because Mourinho coached me in a very important moment of my career. Of course, because we win, [and] many of the things that he brought to the football were new to me.
“I drink a lot from his knowledge, I drink a lot about the way that he behaved, the relations he had with the players and the way that he could get the best from each player.
“Of course, that has a big influence in my idea of becoming a coach. You know I was a professional football player and from every coach, I took something.
“Sometimes good things, other times not so good things. But with Mourinho, of course, he considers himself ‘special’ and he is special in the way that he works, the way that he lives the football and the way that he lives his life.
“It was a very big pleasure to me to work with him, learning with him.
“Until now, we still have the friendship of people that we are not speaking every day, but I know that if he needs me, he will call me. If I need him, I will call him and he will answer.”
How would you compare Roshn Saudi League to other competitions you’ve managed in?
“I believe that from the first time that I was here, five years ago, for now, the league has improved a lot.
“Not only with the quality of the players that are coming, younger players with better conditions to make the difference in our league. But, also the clubs have better conditions, infrastructure, that gives conditions to the players that come, to the coaches that come, to the staff that come, to make better work.
“This is the challenge for everybody and the [Saudi Arabian Football] Federation is also having a contribution on this, making the conditions better for everybody.
“This league is improving every year. Now, with big names like Cristiano Ronaldo for instance, [they] bring the attention to the league and also show to the world the Saudi league – and the Saudi football game.”
What is it like competing with Roshn Saudi League’s other managers?
“For me, it is a challenge, because we have very good managers here in the league with big experience, good quality in the skills that they have and the way that their teams’ play.
“Because the way a team plays, always is going to say which kind of coach you are, which kind of manager you are.
“We have big names in our league and that is why our league is so competitive. I believe that we will continue to improve and to get better because the league is becoming more competitive, year after year.”
How enjoyable is it managing in the great atmospheres created by Roshn Saudi League fans?
“One thing important for me is that I find here in Saudi Arabia, again, in the fans, the passion of the football. They are not crazy, but they are enjoying the game.
“They bring to the game the good atmosphere, the good environment. Whatever is going to be the game, the way the fans live the game that is something which gives me big pleasure and I enjoy the games.
“The game is for the fans. The players play for the fans, the coaches work for the fans and we like to have the fans with us, enjoying the games that we make.”
What have been your favourite experiences in Saudi Arabia, on and off the pitch?
“For me on the pitch, it was the big games that we play, with full stadiums. One that is fantastic to remember is when we were in Al Taawoun, my first time in Saudi and played the semi-finals, and the final, and win the [2019 King’s] Cup.
“This was a very, very important moment, and happy moment, for our career here inside the pitch.
“Outside the pitch, the friendships that I make with a lot of local people, a lot of Saudi persons that I have a very good relationship, a very good friendship.
“They take me to enjoy what is the culture of Saudi. Like going in the desert for dinner, eating like we normally do here, the traditions that I like and enjoy to have with my friends from Saudi.”