Monchi the man behind the success of Sevilla’s youth system

LaLigaNews guest writer Kenneth Asquez is an FA Licensed Player’s Agent since 2003.

Prior to 2012 Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo (Monchi) had overseen a transformation of Sevilla FC, which culminated with them been named by the IFHSS the top ranked club in the World in 2007. As a player with his beloved SFC Monchi was a fairly middling goalkeeper who had achieved little in his footballing career but now in his second career as Sevilla’s Sporting Director he has achieved remarkable success.

In 2000 Sevilla had just been relegated from the top division and facing an uncertain future, both in sporting terms and at an economic level. After spending the year as the club’s “delegado” (Managers assistant who liaises with the match officials) Monchi was appointed the clubs sporting director.

The main objectives entrusted upon his shoulders were very clear from the then President Roberto Ales:

1) implement a scouting network that would allow the club to spot potential stars before any of the big clubs do and

2) develop the club’s youth policy so that the club could develop their own stars of the future. On both counts Monchi has more than exceeded in his brief.

The clubs academy started to develop some of Europe’s finest youngsters and scouts from all the big European Teams flocked the Sanchez Pizjuan every week to keep tabs on the emerging talent that Joaquin Caparros firstly and then Juande Ramos slowly groomed into full Spanish Internationals.

First it was Jose Antonio Reyes, then came Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, Diego Capel and the late Antonio Puerta  all closely followed. In keeping with the clubs objectives all these players were sold and generated income of circa £70m whilst at the same time playing an integral role in displaying the “Sevilla” brand throughout Europe.

The club’s academy is one of the most highly rated in Spain regularly achieving success in provincial and national level. It boasts 22 teams and over 300 players and the club invests approximately €2m per season. During the past six years the talent has dried up mainly due to Spain’s big two of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid poaching players at a younger level and favourable tax laws which saw an influx of foreign players however with the financial crisis sweeping through Spain Monchi has had to re invent himself and go back to the basics which made him a wanted man for the post of Sporting Director and all the major European Clubs. Luis Alberto (sold this summer to Liverpool FC for £7m) and first choice left back Alberto Moreno (ever present in Spain’s U21 team that run away with the U21 Championship playoffs played this past summer in Israel are already a testament of this.

So what has changed in the football industry during his successful tenure as one of the most sought after Sports Directors in World Football “fundamentally the globalisation of football” says Monchi.  “As clubs are much more professional in the way they focus there operations there are numerous amounts of tools and IT applications which we have access to now which were non existent when I first started this job in 2000. Any professional football club with a simple structure can have access to games and players from Kazakstan, Czech Republic or Ecuador. Clubs have seen the importance and the benefits for their business of having a scouting network in place that is able to scour every corner of the globe for good players at accessible prices. When we discovered Dani Alves in the U20 World Cup of 2003 there were just two of us in the department and only one was present at the World Cup. The recent World U20 Championships hosted by Turkey saw the presence of scouts from over 60 professional teams so this had led to a new dimension being created for all in order to be ahead of the rest in terms of recruitment.”

La Liga has seen 33 players emigrate to other leagues due to the financial crisis affecting the game in Spain predominantly caused by the astronomical difference that currently exists in the distribution of revenues generated by the sale of TV rights of La Liga. This has lead to a widening of the gap both in revenues and sporting achievements domestically in favour of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Whilst the average salary of a player who plays for these two top clubs is €5m the next (Valencia and At Madrid it falls to €2m and in the case of Sevilla €1.5m whilst their city rivals Real Betis themselves in Administration it falls down to €500k.

Does Monchi feel that there could be a financial meltdown in La Liga? “No, I think the worst has passed and now clubs are extremely aware of sticking to financial jurisprudence. Now when I go and negotiate a possible acquisition I have a copy of the clubs balance sheet ” he adamantly adds. Still he is extremely aware of the market and knows that when a Premiership or Bundesliga team enter the race for a player his team has targeted they get blown out of the race immediately. ” We have lost seven players to the Premiership this current transfer window he adds but then again it provides the platform for our business to continue and succeed. Sevilla will always be a selling club and the revenues generated from the sales to the Premiership allows us to re invest in players at key prices and keep the business going. One of the main reasons of our recent slump in success has been our failure to dominate the market and our acquisitions have not been at the level of our expectations. Whereas we sold Julio Baptista for €30m and replaced him with Freddie Kanoute for €10mln in 2005 and allowed us to reinvest and strengthen other  areas of the team and catapult us to Champions League Football, winning two UEFA Cups, two Spanish Kings Cup, a European Super Cup and a Spanish Super Cup, recent ones have not delivered.”

Notwithstanding this one senses a man breaming with confidence with the work undertaken this summer and the transformation of the team. Expectations levels are very high from the fans and the clubs board, especially the President, Jose Maria Del Nido, who unlike other Presidents in La Liga has total trust and confidence in Monchi and his eighteen man team. ‘He has never imposed a player on me or sold a player behind my back. He always consults me and listens to the advice we put to the board. This is perhaps one of the key factors why, although other clubs, have inquired about my availability, I have always remained loyal to my club. Job satisfaction and freedom to manage my resources are key factors for me and in this club I can vehemently state I have had them from day one.”

After watching Seville net some impressive results during a hectic pre season schedule I understand the confidence that Monchi is transmitting. Watch out as we might see the Phoenix raising from the ashes and would not be surprised if the brand “Sevilla” that was known throughout every corner of Europe less than five years ago is once again in every football fans lips.

Kenneth Asquez is a FA Licensed Player’s Agent since 2003