How Director of Football Can Work in the Transfer Market...or Go Horribly Wrong
Cast your eyes across many mainland European top-flight professional football clubs, and you'll see a clear structure in place at the very top: the president or owner, the board of directors, and the head coach.
Manager sackings, as we know, happen all too frequently, so one way clubs try to ensure continuity is to ensure the link between the board and the head of the first team, by way of a Director of Football.
Sporting Director, Technical Director and others are titles which crop up frequently, along with a few choice others, but a DoF by any other name is still a DoF.
Over in the Premier League though, it's still a title and a position which provokes mistrust, apprehension and negativity in some quarters, while others entrust the fortune of seasons and millions of pounds into what is still a novel specimen of football club staff members.
The recent closure of the summer transfer window in the Premier League highlights what a difference having a Director of Football in place can make—at both ends of the spectrum.
Get it right, and serious waves can be made; get it wrong, though, and a club can seem horribly inert and ill-prepared for the rigours of the season ahead.
For all their massive expenditure during this summer, Tottenham have actually gone into the new season with their first team one member light in terms of net bodies, and having made a profit over the course of the transfer window as per Transfermarkt.
Chairman Daniel Levy has always been known as a tough negotiator and a man who will stick doggedly to his guns in the face of player power or lower-than-realistic offers for his players—see the Luka Modric transfer saga as a case in point—but even he must be impressed with Franco Baldini this summer.
Baldini was appointed Sporting Director at the beginning of summer and his impact was immediate as he aided in bringing the likes of Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue and Christian Eriksen to the club—not forgetting record signing Erik Lamela, who played at Roma with Baldini in a similar role at that club last season.
It's not clear who had the greater impact out of the two, Levy and Baldini, in arranging the world record transfer fee for Gareth Bale, sold to Real Madrid for £85 million, but even if that was the chairman's doing it has been Baldini who has reinvested those funds wisely.
David Bentley, William Gallas, Steven Caulker, Clint Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale are out; Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Capoue, Soldado, Eriksen and Lamela are in—and not a penny spent.
Director of Football: win.
And so to Newcastle United, who, it is fair to say, did not quite achieve as much success as Spurs in this summer's transfer window.
Also back in June, the Magpies took the step of approaching and appointing Joe Kinnear as their own Director of Football, despite the perceived success the club had had in previous seasons with Chief Scout Graham Carr and manager Alan Pardew apparently deciding transfer targets.
It's fair to say that Kinnear's reign did not get off to the best of starts, as per the Guardian:
On Monday evening Kinnear gave a shambolic interview to Talksport in which the former Wimbledon manager claimed responsibility for signing Tim Krul (a goalkeeper recruited by Graeme Souness) as well as James Perch (bought by Chris Hughton), said Derek Llambezee (Llambias) had resigned as director of football (a position he has never held) and talked about Shola Amenobee, Yohan Kebab and Hatem Ben Afre rather than Shola Ameobi, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Unfortunately for the beleaguered club, things haven't gotten particularly better since, with Newcastle failing miserably to add to their squad this summer. They finished just two places outside of the relegation spots last season, despite adding five players to their squad in the January transfer window, so reinforcements were certainly needed over the summer.
A sole loan signing—striker Loic Remy—was the sum total of their actions for the first team, though, while they lost squad members James Perch, Steve Harper and Danny Simpson.
A reported £2 million loan fee for Remy, however, means that the club still made a loss in this most recent window.
Newcastle haven't strengthened their side, and worryingly, their rivals all have. Sunderland are the only surviving side from last season who finished below Newcastle, and they have had a radical overhaul of their squad, bringing in more than a dozen new signings.
The Magpies are going to face a real struggle this season just to remain still, unless Pardew can work hitherto unsuspected miracles with his squad. Their one big triumph of the window was to keep Yohan Cabaye in place, possibly through suspect means.
I'm told Mike Ashley let Cabaye listen to phone negotiations last week + he heard Arsenal say: "25 million a lot for a reserve" #moodchanger— James Pearce (@Pearcesport) September 2, 2013
This has very much been a case of a senior appointment being a big disappointment.
Director of Football: lose.
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