Pride get their man in former Benfica coach
SERGIO Raimundo is as perfect a fit as Western Pride could have hoped for when searching for its next head coach.
The National Premier Leagues Queensland club has long - pardon the pun - prided itself on its development of youth players, and fast-tracking young talent through the system and into the senior team.
And there are a finite few in Australia who boast a better professional resume centred around doing exactly that, than the Pride's new Portuguese manager.
Hailing from Lisbon, Raimundo cut his teeth in coaching at Portuguese powerhouse Benfica as a Youth team coach in 2009 and later assistant manager to the Under-19 side.
Stints in Senegal, Brazil, Austria and Canada followed, with Raimundo's track record of working with young players making him a man in demand to many European and South American clubs.
The 34-year-old's portfolio was impressive enough to make the Pride stand up and take notice even on the other side of the world, and as Raimundo put it: "It's all networking; now here I am."
Having worked with such high profile Portuguese players as Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, Juventus defender Joao Cancelo and Everton loanee Andre Gomes in the past, Raimundo joins Pride with an overarching goal to develop Pride players into the best footballers and people they can be.
That the Ipswich club and its new coach share a similar philosophy made the role an attractive one for Raimundo.
"To see the idea of playing with such young players, bringing youth through the system it's a brave thing to do, it's not as easy as people may think to have a 17-year-old playing on the first team," he said.
"I consider myself a specialist on the transition to the senior level, working with players to get to the top level. You have to be careful. If you don't take care of a player and give them enough trust, they can be lost forever - or you can have a player, a good one, forever."
The new coach's machinations have already been on full display in the Pride's pre-season performances against Gold Coast United and Rochedale, with 17-year-old Daniel Cupac starting in goal against the latter.
"We know (playing younger players) can sometimes come at a cost, but we think the reward long-term is (worth it)," Raimundo said.
"It produces something special for the club, for the region, the country . . . helping the A-League teams and also the Federation and national team.
"This project is a bit different from last season. We've lost three of the biggest goalscorers and our captain, but we shouldn't focus on that.
"We have players with quality coming from youth, and we must keep being brave and putting them out there knowing mistakes can cost points, but also develop players on a long-term basis."
For Raimundo, who has moved to Australia with his wife and young daughter, liveability was just as crucial a consideration as the Pride football program.
Having plied his trade in many countries, cultures and climates, he is looking forward to hopefully settling in "a country that is organised, beautiful, and has a great lifestyle".
"When I was at university I thought about coming here to continue my studies," Raimundo said.
"I had a great image of Australia as a country, and it has matched what I thought. My wife is super happy here, my daughter already says, 'hello mate' - she's a mini Aussie already. We're keen to stay, to enjoy and see our little one grow.
"It's hotter here (than in Portugal), although maybe we are the Australia of Europe, but not as nice or as consistent weather as here.
"Also the people are more relaxed. The lifestyle has less stress, I think you can live longer in Australia."