The different recruitment models used by the Premier League’s top six clubs
Manchester United are set to create a new director of football role amid reported tensions between Jose Mourinho and Ed Woodward – but how do the rest of the top six operate?
Mourinho was left frustrated come the end of the transfer window after United failed to secure deals for a number of his favoured targets, most notably at centre-back.
That has led to plenty of attention on how the club’s recruitment works, and we’ve taken a look at the systems in place at the Premier League’s top six teams for comparison.
Coming from a different generation of managers, Arsene Wenger had a reputation for wanting to be involved in every aspect of running the club while in charge of Arsenal.
The Gunners hierarchy only began to make changes to their set-up in Wenger’s final year in charge, most notably by appointing Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment.
Mislintat earned a reputation as one of the finest talent spotters in Europe thanks to his 10-year spell at Borussia Dortmund, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembele among his success stories.
His influence has already been keenly felt at the Emirates thanks to the signings of former Dortmund stars Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Arsenal then followed the appointment of Mislintat by bringing in Raul Sanlehi as head of football relations.
A former Nike executive, Sanlehi had been Barcelona’s director of football since 2008, but his role is not to identify player; his speciality is instead in the negotiating process and closing deals.
Gazidis on the process: “We formed a three-person committee lead by me with Sven Mislintat & Raul Sanllehi. We wanted progressive, entertaining football, a personality that fits Arsenal’s values & a record of developing young players – pushing players & demanding more from them.”
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) May 23, 2018
Chelsea have long since used the director of football model but have operated without one since Michael Emenalo left his post as technical director in November 2017 – joining Monaco as sporting director just a few weeks later.
Emenalo had been a divisive figure at times in west London, but the club were keen to stress they had accepted his resignation “with regret”
Having initially joined the Blues as opposition scout under Avram Grant, Emenalo had been promoted to the role in 2011, with his duties including leading the club’s international and domestic scouting network.
The remit of recruitment was shared between Emenalo and director Marina Granovskaia, and Antonio Conte described the former Notts County player’s departure as a “big loss” as his relationship with Granovskaia became strained.
Granovskaia has since taken over Emenalo’s day-to-day work since his exit, aided by head scout Scott McLachlan, while the search for a new appointment continues.
In March, Lille’s sporting director Luis Campos, who previously worked for Monaco and Real Madrid, was reportedly being considered, while former players Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack have also been linked with the role.
Chelsea's mad transfer policy: perhaps Emenalo wasn't bad after all?
— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) January 18, 2018
Liverpool’s fabled ‘transfer committee’ came under intense scrutiny under the management of Brendan Rodgers after the money raised from the sale of Luis Suarez was largely squandered.
The Reds have changed their structure since the appointment of Jurgen Klopp, however, with Michael Edwards – a former member of the committee – appointed as sporting director in November 2016.
Having made his name as an analyst, Edwards’ role is to support Klopp “with player identification and recruitment while continuing the flow of information to the coaching team”, according to the Liverpool Echo.
Edwards famously played a big role in convincing Klopp that Mo Salah was the right player for Liverpool rather than Julian Brandt last summer.
This job is backed up by Dave Fallows, who co-ordinates the club’s network of scouts as the club’s head of scouting and recruitment.
President of FSG Mike Gordon, meanwhile, acts as the go-between for Liverpool’s UK and American figures.
tell that to michael edwards https://t.co/8kD4IDp2wR
— Мatt (@_mpk89) August 14, 2018
It’s now so easy to forget that there was a period when Txiki Begiristain, City’s sporting director, faced plenty of criticism.
Big-money signings such as Eliaquim Mangala and (initially at least) Nicolas Otamendi had struggled to adapt to English football, and City were left with an ageing squad featuring the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov.
Begiristain did, however, play a major part in attracting his former Barcelona team-mate Pep Guardiola to City and, after a disappointing first season, has helped revamp the squad to devastating effect over the past 12 months.
Throw in the transformation of City’s academy into one of the leading youth systems in Europe and Begiristain can be pretty pleased with his work.
United’s recruitment has been much maligned ever since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes endured a shambolic summer when he replaced the Scot, while Louis van Gaal saw the likes of Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay become expensive flops.
Following a transfer window in which Jose Mourinho often complained about a lack of progress in recruitment, the club have now decided to appoint a director of football as part of an ongoing restructuring of the club.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is currently the man in charge of giving the green light on Mourinho’s targets and trying to negotiate deals.
Both Woodward and Mourinho are expected to still be substantially involved in recruitment, but a director of football is likely to add expertise to the area and ease any tensions between the manager and the board.
Jorge Campos, also linked with Chelsea, is reportedly in the frame, alongside Paul Mitchell, who made his name at Southampton and Tottenham before moving to RB Leipzig.
A Director of Football might just be what Manchester United need to help mend bridges between Board and manager and also help implement club's philosophy – something United have lacked since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Good idea. #MUFC
— Odiko Godwin™⚽ (@OdikoGodwin) August 14, 2018
Spurs had a quiet summer in terms of recruitment, failing to add a single player to their squad after a summer-long pursuit of Jack Grealish failed to materialise.
The departure of the aforementioned Mitchell was seen as a blow to Mauricio Pochettino, with the pair working closely together at both Southampton and Tottenham.
Mitchell’s exit coincided with the departure of head of player identification Rob Mackenzie, who became director of recruitment at Derby County, and prompted a restructuring of the club’s footballing operations.
Steve Hitchen was appointed as head of recruitment and analysis, reporting to the three-person football committee made up of Daniel Levy, Pochettino and academy manager John McDermott.
A favourite of Damien Comolli’s, Hitchen, who previously worked at Tottenham under Harry Redknapp before leaving for Liverpool, has a good pedigree, having been a key influence in the Reds’ signing of Luis Suarez and Spurs’ capture of Luka Modric.
Former player Steffen Freund, meanwhile, has acted as international technical coordinator since 2014, and his responsibilities include the development of Spurs’ players on overseas loans as well as talent identification.