La Magica; The Monchi Files — 06. Shadow Lists

Looking at modern football – how is it possible that the richest clubs own more wealth than the rest of the clubs combined? The circumstances are often in their favour, whether that be in terms of the country they are from, potential markets they can access and financial windfalls that can be generated as a result. Yet, at times, they still lose out to smaller, financially less powerful clubs, be it in individual matches or even over the course of a season. Is this a fluke, some random event where the underdogs were favoured by Lady Luck? Or do some clubs continue to defy the odds and is there a lesson to be learned here?

Clubs, such as Basel, Sevilla, Porto, Ajax, are entrepreneurial – they attempt through the lens of time, the need, and aspiration of the market. Their achievements over the past decade or so, both domestically and internationally, did not happen by chance. They all laboured strenuously to get to and stay in the position they are in this world and remain there. Opportunity is created daily and it’s all around us. Yet, only a few are able to seize it and turn it into a blessing. Football management is nothing different.

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Creating An Effective Battering Ram

Most avid FM players have encountered situations like these before. Whatever the exact circumstances, you desperately need to score a goal but the opposition is stifling your forwards by erecting a living wall of human bodies in and just outside of their own penalty area. Despite hopelessly outclassing the other side in terms of possession and shots on goal, your team is just not scoring any goals. These defensive exploits are frustrating you and your team, as the opposing team refuses to be led to the slaughter. In an effort to break down the opposing defence, you could employ an old-fashioned battering ram. It makes sense; when finesse is not sufficient to break down an especially tenacious and dogged defence, brute force might offer an effective alternative.

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La Magica; The Monchi Files — 05. Hoarding Or Surgically Signing

To say that transfers are an essential aspect of world football would not only be a massive understatement but also quite evident. Now more than ever, clubs spend enormous, almost obscene sums of money to attract good players. The record fees for players continue to rise every season, as the amount of money splashed around by the select few at the top continues to skyrocket to levels deemed preposterous a mere decade ago.

One of the effects of this gradual influx of money is the inflation of the transfer market. The transfer fees that both clubs and fans consider normal for relatively good players have risen exponentially in the last decade or so. Clubs like Real Madrid and the tycoon-lead English clubs have initiated this tendency to spend outrageous fees on often lukewarm players. Often, clubs will flex their respective financial muscles as much as they can to lure a specific player in or even keep players away from the competition. A club like FC Bayern, for example, is renowned for simply buying up the best players from potential competitors, even if they have no direct need for a specific player.

With this sort of panorama, it has become more and more important for clubs to anticipate their own needs and plan ahead. Swift and decisive action in the transfer market has become the deciding factor in getting great players’ signatures in contracts. In this regard, Football Manager is no different from the real world it attempts to simulate. The central question is, how do you plan ahead exactly?

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Creating A Quarterback From Your Defence

Those of you who follow the blog or my Twitter feed are well aware that I enjoy creating “new” roles by tweaking existing ones or using regular roles in extraordinary situations. I have dabbled with the Targetganche in the past, which was basically a Targetman-type player in the attacking midfield stratum but I was looking for something new and interesting for FM18.

In terms of football tactics, I try to think outside the box, which also means making use of underutilised resources. This train of thought automatically leads me to look at the central defenders. When your team is on the attack, the central defenders are almost always tasked with remaining behind to protect the defensive line and ensure the team is not caught by a counter-attack. The wing-backs are often tasked with adding to the offensive phases of the game but what if we could get the central defenders involved somehow to gain an extra edge?

When the team is pressing an opposing side, the offensive line is generally the first line of defence, as they pressure the opposition defence and try to either win back possession or force a long ball. When we mirror this idea, there has to be a way in which the defensive line or at least elements of the defensive line can act as the first layer of the offensive phase. The idea I had was hardly an original one, as people like Guardiola and Klopp use the same principle. I was going to use one of the central defenders as a sort of quarterback.

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La Magica; The Monchi Files — 04. The Scouting Setup

So let’s just imagine for a moment your average Football Manager scenario. You are the newly appointed manager of a football club predicted to finish in the bottom half of the table of Premier League. In fact, your club just barely escaped by the skin of its teeth last season, narrowly avoiding the drop.

Analysing the squad, you quickly come to the conclusion that you have inherited a team with a traditional scouting network and a few data analysts. The squad itself is both ageing and shallow. Meanwhile, the one or two genuine stars you do have are outside the protected period in their contracts are likely to move on in the summer. Though the first team is almost certainly in need of a radical overhaul, ownership has provided you with a rather limited maximum transfer budget to work with.

After questioning why you took this job in the first place, you sit down and consider your options. You have to make the best out of a potentially disastrous situation with the means you have at hand. How do you maximise the output of the scouting team you do have? How can you strengthen this team? What are the kind of orders and assignments you give to your scouts and analysts? These are the topics I intend to focus on in this blog post. I will not be looking at the technical aspects but the strategical ones instead.

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Three Carat Diamond; A Lopsided Midfield

The tagline for this site is “dare to think outside the box”, which is both a play-of-words on the idea of not fielding an actual striker as well as a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. For my new tactic, I have decided to create a spin on the traditional diamond tactics. Naturally, the formation has a strikerless twist. Playing in this formation offers you a midfield diamond, which in turn enables you to pass the ball and play between the lines of both back four and midfield, as well as midfield and forward line. If you have followed the site somewhat regularly, you can see that such a concept of play appeals to me and suits the strikerless style.

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La Magica; The Monchi Files — 03. Sign-To-Sell

As modern football is changing and evolving, the influence of the financial moguls cannot be underestimated. Money is becoming more and more important, changing the club landscape throughout the world. The rise of financially powerful corporations backed by big corporations or rich owners has led to a trickle-down of capital and subsequently the rise of shop window clubs or selling clubs.

These clubs have perfected their scouting approaches and deliver a steady stream of talented towards the absolute top clubs, overachieving somewhat along the way in European competitions. Real-life examples such as FC Basel, Benfica, Porto, Sevilla and perhaps to a lesser extent Ajax have mastered the concept of signing players with the objective of selling them on for a profit; sign-to-sell.

These clubs, or actually their boards, understand that, in capitalist football, all staff are up for sale and will only remain at the club until they have reached their peak. The best businessmen know who to sign cheap and even more importantly; when to cash in before hitting a glass ceiling.

In this blog post, I want to focus on the concept of sign-to-sell. Essentially, this is the resale factor; the Monchi factor if you will. When I sign this player, will I be able to sell him on to another club? Which factors determine this resale factor? How can I maximise my chances of finding a player with resale potential? (more…)

La Magica; The Monchi Files — 02. Value For Money

One of the things Monchi excelled at was buying low and selling high. During his tenure at the club, Sevilla’s scouting network branched far and wide and the club has gained plenty of success by tapping into underappreciated markets in South America and smaller European leagues. His success stories were also numerous.

Monchi ranks Dani Alves as one of his best ever signings, and it is not hard to see why. At the age of 19, Alves was plucked from the obscurity of Brazilian club Bahia, initially on loan and then on a permanent basis for under a million euros. Six years, 246 appearances, two UEFA Cups and a Copa del Rey later, he was transferred to Barcelona for 30 million euros, becoming the most expensive right-back of all time.

Another example of Sevilla recognising the potential of a player in time was Julio Baptista, who arrived at Sevilla as a solid, if unspectacular defensive midfielder from Brazilian football, but left just two years later as a prolific brute of a striker. Nicknamed “The Beast” due to his immense frame, Baptista struck 47 goals in his two seasons at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, earning a big-money move to Real Madrid in 2005.

Yet another starlet signed from a lower league club abroad, Geoffrey Kondogbia moved to Spanish football after just one full season in Ligue 2 with Lens, but quickly made a big impression on La Liga and European football. The Frenchman’s excellent displays in central midfield sparked interest from a host of top European clubs, but it was newly-promoted Monaco who took the plunge on him for 20 million euro’s, which is five times what Sevilla paid for him just one year previously.

A final example of just how far-reaching Sevilla’s scouting network spans is Carlos Bacca, who was signed from Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League for just over £5 million. The Colombian hit the ground running straight away, netting 21 goals in his first season and then 28 the next campaign to secure a dream move to Milan in 2015.

These are all prime examples of getting value for your money. Finding players with obvious talent who are somehow underrated by the market system. Bring these players in on sufficiently low deals, develop them, see them blossom and sell them for a major profit. The concept of value for money underlines all of these transfers and thus should underline this entire series.

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La Magica; The Monchi Files — 01. The Intro

When you are looking from a financially powerful club’s perspective, say your Man City’s, Man Utd’s, Chelsea’s, Barcelona’s, Real Madrid’s, PSG’s and such, the transfer market is an opportunity to strengthen the squad with star names and exciting youngsters as you see fit. They have competition from each other when looking at certain players but money is generally never an issue.

However, for the majority of the clubs in world football, the transfer market represents an inherent fear of losing the players who brought them joy and success in the season that just went by. Regardless of how you and I may or may not personally feel about the way money dominates the world of football, there are some clubs who have mastered the art of selling star assets yet rebuilding without losing too much of their momentum. Alongside the often praised Portuguese giants Benfica and Porto, Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, the Netherlands’ Ajax and Switzerland’s FC Basel, there is another club that is rather renowned for achieving the feat perennially; Sevilla.

Sevilla’s rise to the top was largely facilitated by their excellent exploits in the transfer market, which were largely the work of one man. He is known as Monchi and his method for evaluating talent has Europe’s attention. Before his move to Italian giants AS Roma, he was highly sought after by both Barcelona and Real Madrid and he turned down an offer to join Sevilla manager Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain.

Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, who still goes by the nickname from his goalkeeping days, has become one of the most sought-after football directors in European soccer after revolutionizing Spanish club Sevilla with a scouting system that helped rescue the team from the brink of financial collapse and turned it into a perennial contender in the continent’s second-tiered competitions.

Monchi is football’s version of Billy Beane, the baseball general manager whose innovative methods to evaluate players helped revitalize the Oakland A’s and whose story later became a book and the movie, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt. In what is to become the start of an entire series of articles, I would like to investigate the work being done by Monchi at Sevilla and apply it to Football Manager.

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