The name of Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo or "Monchi" may not be familiar to most of you. But this is a man who has been a cornerstone of the recent successes of one of the top teams in Spain.
When Juande Ramos left Sevilla, though undoubtedly there was much outcry, the response was not as downhearted as many felt it would be. In fact most of the Sevilla fans, actually felt that were Monchi to leave then it would have been far more disastrous for the club, illustrating his level of importance at the club.
As a player, Monchi was a fairly middling goalkeeper for Sevilla and he achieved little in his footballing career, but now in his second career as Sevilla's sporting director he is achieving remarkable success.
In 2000, Sevilla's plight was dire, the club had just been relegated from the top division and facing an uncertain future, both on a football and economic level. Into this climate came Monchi who was appointed as the club's sporting director.
He was given two key objectives, develop the club's youth policy so that the club could develop their own stars of the future, and implement a scouting system that will allow the club to spot potential stars before any of the big clubs do. On both counts Monchi has more than exceeded his brief.
In terms of youth development, Sevilla have developed some of the finest young players in Europe over the past few years. The club's academy has overseen the development of the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Sergio Ramos, Diego Capel, Jesus Navas, and the late Antonio Puerta.
Some of these players have been sold, with the club recouping £50 million since 1997 through the sale of academy players, but others have stayed and undoubtedly helped the team develop-Capel and Navas are key parts of the current Sevilla team.
Sevilla's academy is now one of the most productive in Spain, boasting 400 players across 22 youth teams. It is now a rival to the much vaunted academies of Real Madrid and Barcelona, which is itself testament to the work of Monchi.
For scouting, Monchi has created a intricate network of over 700 scouts around the globe, all designed to help Sevilla spot and sign the brightest prospects in world football before any of the big clubs become aware of them.
This policy has paid dividends as some absolute bargains have arrived at Sevilla; with the likes of Daniel Alves, Julio Baptista, and Luis Fabiano all being signed for relatively low prices.
Now, Alves and Baptista are among the best players in the world and have been sold on for a big profit. While Luis Fabiano remains at Sevilla and is being touted as one of the best strikers in the world and is interesting a number of big clubs.
Sevilla’s scouting network is so vast and so effective, that often scouts from other big clubs will follow Sevilla scouts in order to track who they are watching, an illustration of how effective Monchi’s plans for scouting have been.
The club continue to be successful in finding future stars-a recent example being midfielder Fazio, who was signed from the Argentine second division and is now seen as a future Argentine international.
Since Monchi’s arrival the transformation at Sevilla has been remarkable, the club was in the Spanish second division when he arrived but is now one of the biggest in Europe, consistently managing top four finishes, and achieving European success with their two UEFA Cup victories.
Though Juande Ramos’ management was an important factor, the club did not fall apart once he left. They have continued their progression under new manager Manolo Jimenez and this weekend alone defeated fellow title rivals Villarreal one nil.
This is due mainly to the system which Monchi has installed at Sevilla. The club remain one of the best producers of young players in Spain, while they are still very capable of finding bargain buys from anywhere—rather than spending big money.
For those who believe that sporting directors don’t work, particularly those in England, the method and mastery of Monchi should go far to dispelling this idea.
He has complete control of all transfer dealings and youth development, which frees up the manager to deal with the team. But unlike what Ramos found when he was at Tottenham with Comolli, Monchi discusses player recruitment with the manager and enjoys very good relations with his managers (Caparros, Ramos, and Jimenez).
Rather than forcing players onto a manager, Monchi works in tandem with them, finding players whose profile and style fit into the tactical make up of the team. As a result, if Sevilla, who are not a relatively big club, have to sell, then often they will have cheaper replacements already lined up-an example being the signing of Konko to replace Alves in the summer.
As a result, Sevilla are able to sell established stars, the likes of Alves, Baptista, Reyes, Keita, and Poulsen have all been sold recently, yet the club still remains competitive, with cheaper signings being brought in to replace them. As a result Monchi’s system means that the club continues to evolve and continues to compete at the highest possible level on the smallest possible budget.
While in England the fashion is to denigrate the work and role of a sporting director at a football club, the example of Monchi provides a perfect template for how a sporting director should work.
Here is a man who often works in the background, dealing with much of the off-the-field work, leaving the manager to deal with the team, and often gain the bulk of the praise when success is achieved.
But what should not be in doubt is that were it not for the vital work of Monchi, and the system he has put in place, then Sevilla would certainly not be in the position that they find themselves in today. For all the praise and acclaim Sevilla’s managers deserve, it is Monchi’s work that powers everything the club achieves.