You’ve probably read or remember all about Marco Silva’s previous English adventures. Impressive with his back against the wall in a doomed relegation battle with Hull, his strong start at Watford was allegedly derailed by underhand approaches from Everton – whom he took to eighth in another excellent opening after finally being installed at Goodison Park before things fell apart. If you’ve only examined the Premier League record, it is easy to see why there are still plenty of question marks surrounding this Portuguese enigmatic. But Silva’s first managerial experience – his role in the remarkable rise of Estoril – remains instructive in answering why the Fulham hierarchy have picked him as their successor to Scott Parker.

To call the young Silva’s first job a steep learning curve is more than a mere understatement. He had retired after six seasons as Estoril’s whole-hearted right back and was looking forward to learning his trade as a novice director of football at the second division outfit. He threw himself quickly into the role, persuading his old team-mates to stick with a struggling side, and acted as a bridge between the stalwarts of the dressing room and unproven new owners.

When things didn’t go well on the field, those same owners made a bold call – they sacked Vinicius Eutrópio and handed the reigns to a 34 year-old without any managerial background to speak of. Silva took over with Estoril in tenth – in grave danger of dropping into the third tier – and the supporters had modest expectations, seeking a period of solidity, before perhaps turning to a more seasoned hand. Silva started with a defeat but then lost just three of their next 24 matches, winning the second division by five points and securing a promotion that is still marvelled at today.

Silva’s intimate knowledge of the set-up, his modest nature and expertise at man management were all real assets. Captain Goncalo Santos raved about his impact. “All of the players believed in him. It was the best time for Estoril and a lot of players improved under him. The best quality is that he is like a friend, he asks everyone how they feel and he is always helping them. That’s the kind of coach everybody likes, he is like a father.” Goncalo still counts Silva as one of his closest friends today.

Very few observers gave Estoril much of a chance amongst the big boys. The papers tipped them they go straight back down. Silva tinkered with his tactics slightly, but remained largely true to the team that had delivered promotion. His faith was rewarded remarkably as Estoril finished fifth and qualifying for the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history. They beat Sporting at home and drew with Benfica by adopting an adventurous passing style and pressing the opposition relentlessly.

It was assumed that this fluke couldn’t be repeated especially as Silva’s star players left for pastures now. Estoril lost leading scorer Steven Vitória on a Bosman, Licá and Carlos Eduardo to Porto, but Silva shopped smartly over the summer, bringing in defender Yohan Taveres and wingers Javier Balboa and Sebá, who quickly established themselves in a new-look side. The fundamentals of his approach didn’t change – Estoril were just as fearless in their second season.

Silva’s side were tough to beat at home, even though they struggled to attract more than a thousand home supporters, but were even more impressive on their travels. They notched up nine away wins – including Porto’s first home league defeat in seven years – and beat Sporting 1-0 in a tactical masterclass that was widely recognised as being the result that persuaded the Lions to poach one of Europe’s most promising coaches at the end of the season. Astonishingly, Estoril finished fourth assuring automatic qualification for the Europa League group stages this time.

Silva went on to enjoy success with Sporting, finishing third in the league, and delivering the club’s first silverware in seven years after lifting the Portuguese Cup following a penalty shoot-out win over Braga. He shrugged off the setback of being dismissed five days later for not wearing the club’s official suit by guiding Olympiacos to seventeen straight domestic wins – a continental 21st century record – on their way to winning the title with six games to spare. Silva oversaw a famous triumph over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal at the Emirates in 2015 and, far from being finished in English football as many leading correspondents claimed after his Everton sacking, he’s relishing a new challenge in a country where he feels he has unfinished business.