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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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? […]

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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