Unusually for a manager at such a high level, he was never a professional footballer. He only became involved in football when, at the age of 17, he was living in the same apartment block as FC Porto manager Bobby Robson. The two became acquainted and Robson appointed him to a junior position at Porto then arranged for him to go on English Football Association and UEFA coaching courses.
Villas-Boas was briefly British Virgin Islands FA youth co-ordinator before becoming technical director at the age of 21. He then returned to Portugal to join the staff of José Mourinho at FC Porto, subsequently moving with Mourinho to Chelsea and Internazionale in Milan.
He became a manager in his own right when he returned to FC Porto in June 2010 and in his first season won a remarkable quadruple - the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the UEFA Europa League, the Portuguese Cup and the Super Cup. At 33 years and 213 days, he was the youngest manager to win a European competition.
Villas-Boas was at FC Porto for just one year when he moved to become the new manager of London club Chelsea in June 2011. Things did not work out for him there and he left the club the following March, although the team he had created went on to win the UEFA Champions League under caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo. After Chelsea, he was head coach of Tottenham Hotspur in North London from July 2012 to December 2013. He then spent two years at Zenit, before moving to Shanghai in November 2016. He left in November 2017 after not wishing to renew his contract.
Villas-Boas has strong English family connections, his paternal grandmother is Margaret Kendall, whose mother moved to Portugal from Manchester to start a wine business. His great uncle Douglas Kendall was a wing commander in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.