Andre Villas-Boas has left his position as manager of Shanghai SIPG and announced he will compete in the 2018 Dakar Rally in January.
The Portuguese tactician will trade his touchline for the climes of South America and drive a Toyota Hilux in the annual cross-country race after he was talked down from riding a motorbike, per the Press Association (h/t Guardian):
"I spoke with my friend Alex Doringer, the manager of the KTM team, who told me that I would still need a full year’s preparation to get there and that it was better to consider doing it with a car. So I got in touch with Team Overdrive and here I am!"
The former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur chief's transition strikes as one of the more surprising career swings in recent football memory, bigger even than Rio Ferdinand's upcoming step into the boxing ring.
BBC Radio London reporter Nick Godwin illustrated just how surprising Wednesday's announcement was:
Nick Godwin @NickGodwinsport
Just got in the office, sat down, logged on. BREAKING NEWS: Andre Villas-Boas to contest the Dakar Rally in a Toyota in 2018. *Logs off and goes home*2017-11-29 16:24:07
Villas-Boas will be joined by Portuguese countryman and rally-raid rider Ruben Faria as his co-driver, valuable experience to have considering the professional finished as runner-up in the 2013 Dakar Rally.
The Montreal Gazette's David Rudin previously attested to Villas-Boas' signals toward there being more to life other than football:
David Rudin @DavidSRudin
I wrote about André Villas-Boas prioritizing an interesting life over traditional managerial feats for @whatahowler last year. Said column did not foresee “AVB, Rally driver” as a twist, mind you https://t.co/VAlyMOYFtF https://t.co/azHwrZ2Bv62017-11-29 16:48:17
Villas-Boas joined Shanghai SIPG in November of last year but ended his maiden season in the Chinese Super League without a trophy, as the team finished runners-up in the Chinese Super League.
After mixed spells at Chelsea and Tottenham in the Premier League, he found moderate success with Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg, spending two season at the club between March 2014 and May 2016.
PA reported the 40-year-old's uncle participated in the 1982 Dakar Rally, which was run from the French capital of Paris to Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
The landscape of the race has changed much since then, and next year's edition will see Villas-Boas and a host of professional teams rally from Lima, Peru, to Cordoba, Argentina, winding through Bolivia along the way.
Drivers and riders have 37 days before the event begins on Saturday, January 6, at which point they'll embark upon a 15-day journey comprising more than 8,500 kilometres before reaching the finish on Saturday, January 20.
Villas-Boas' decision may have been in part helped by Shanghai SIPG's recent defeat to Shanghai Shenhua in the final of the Chinese FA Cup, with a return to football before the end of this season now looking unlikely.