Written by Aman Sridhar
How did Sevilla, one of the lesser known Spanish sides win 3 Europa Leagues in a row, and in the process not only establish themselves as a top-tier side but also create a pool of superstars who have moved on to more success around the world?
The long answer to this query is complicated, and involves many different factors synchronizing in tandem; the short answer, however, is simple: Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo.
Monchi is a former Sevilla player and a second-choice goalkeeper who not only revolutionized his club but also the position of Sporting Director at Roma. It is because of him that the position is paid so much importance today. His time at Sevilla may have come to a somewhat acrimonious end, but his love for the club helped propel them to the top-tier of club football, and him into one of the most in-demand professionals in the beautiful game today.
Monchi is credited with turning a number of cheap acquisitions from smaller clubs to superstars, making his club millions in profit. Chief among them, but by no means all of them are stalwarts in Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Carlos Bacca, Kevin Gameiro, Clement Lenglet, Julio Baptista and so many more. Despite making a name for himself as a skilled negotiator, the Spaniard’s primary ambition is to “win and reinvest”. He elaborates on this ideology by stating that “No team will ever feature a banner saying ‘What a great profit, thanks guys!’. Otherwise, you’re nothing more than a shop, unloved by fans.” That’s exactly the mentality he prepares himself with, and exactly why AS Roma were quick to sign him up.
Monchi’s real skill lies in his ability to scout out talent. He’s someone who would have made his name as a scout were he born in another era, but in today’s money-influenced world of football, the former Spanish shotstopper has carved himself a very particular niche, and has paved the way for many more. His intricate, elaborate system at Sevilla had a network of over 700 scouts based around the world to spot young talent. The system worked so well that other big clubs began snagging Sevilla’s scouts. But nothing could stop the Monchi machine from rolling on. Sevilla youngsters continued to perform in the youth divisions, and top players moved up to the first team and were moved on when the time was right.
One can tell that Monchi has the same idea at Roma. He has been given complete control over transfers, but unlike many sporting directors, he adapts to the manager of the club’s specificities. The most important motivation for him seems to be the betterment of the club. He doesn’t view himself as a central figure, and thus his recruitment is solely to help the manager and other professionals at Roma.
Despite all that, Monchi’s time at Roma didn’t start of on a particularly good note. When the elation of having actually scooped him up died down, Roma fans began calling for his head after the sales of crucial team players, Mohamed Salah, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan. Worse still, after the sale of the exceptional Egyptian forward to Liverpool for 43 million pounds, Neymar was sold to PSG and the market reset. Suddenly, it seemed as if Salah was sold for next to nothing, and the anger began to rise.
Furthermore, Roma’s start to the season has been poor. They are quite someway off the Champions League spots already, and have been guilty of dropping points to teams they would have expected to beat. Part of this is because of the vast number of players that were brought in and sold. The transition was always going to take time. But Roma appointed Monchi for his vision and executive decision making. Rumours linking him with Manchester United don’t seem to be going away, but it’s clear Monchi chose Roma for a reason. They’re allowing to him to mould the team in his vision.
Already this season, Monchi has heralded the arrival of some top European talent. Justin Kluivert, Nicolo Zaniolo, Ante Coric, Bryan Cristante and William Bianda all signed over the summer, each of whom represents a clear investment in the future. Had Malcolm not chosen Barcelona, he would have been amongst this new crop of young talent at Roma.
The vision is clear: provide a platform for young talent to perform. Ambitious young players will see this as a stage to express themselves and potentially earn blockbuster moves to bigger clubs later on in their career. It is a win-win situation. Roma will also still be banking on their talent, which in turn will allow them to remain competitive. The low investment cost could yield huge returns both financially and competitively.
Obviously, this season has started slowly. But Kluivert, Zaniolo and Cristante are slowly starting to make an impact on the side. Coric hasn’t yet received an extended run in the team due to niggling injuries, but the promise is there. Roma have a solid base to build on for future success. After last year’s dream run to the Champions League semi finals, it’s hard to see whether they’ll do much better this year, but the foundation has been set for success in the future. Roma have Monchi to thank for that.
Edited by Srinivas Sadhanand
Monchi image 1 via RomaPress
Kluivert Image via Twitter