LaLiga: Sevilla sporting director Monchi reveals his methods, discusses scouting department and success
Sevilla's sporting director Monchi has been in the role since 2001 and has overseen remarkable success at the LaLiga club. His policy remains, 'never worry about selling players'.
Not many clubs are as capable as Sevilla at losing important players and still being able to flourish. Wissam Ben Yedder, Jesus Navas, Jose Antonio Reyes, Clement Lenglet, Vitolo, Kevin Gameiro, Steven Nzonzi, Geoffrey Kongdogbia, Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos are a few names that Sevilla have seen depart over the years.
In return, they've signed great quality players to bolster the squad: Ivan Rakitic, Suso, Oliver Torres, Ever Banega, Jules Kounde are all perfect examples of that. The credit for such perfect business, in part at least, goes to their sporting director Monchi.
Heralded as one of the best sporting directors in European football, Monchi has been in the role for 20 years split between the Spanish club and AS Roma in Serie A. His stay in Italy was brief and he's once again back at the club he represented as a player for 11 years — mostly as a reserve goalkeeper.
Sevilla had won seven trophies across domestic and European competitions when Monchi was appointed in 2001. Since then, they've amassed 11 including a record six Europa League titles.
In 2002, he spent 500,000 euros on a loan signing for a full-back from Brazilian club Bahia. Six years later, Barcelona would pay 35.5 million euros for him. That player? Dani Alves. Monchi considers Alves to be his proudest signing, “he fulfilled all the steps; unknown player, successful and sold for a high amount.”
The methods of picking players and choosing targets have changed since. Now, Sevilla employ a team of scouts, data analysts backed by Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to comb through a staggering 8 million data points from a single football game. The nine-member data team comes from outside the football world and comprises engineers, statisticians and mathematicians.
His team also includes 12 full-time scouts who watch games in France, Belgium, Croatia, Brazil, Austria and other countries. "My team sees around 60 games a month. I see around 15 because I have other functions,” he said via a translator.
“The first information comes from the scouting system who are watching a lot of games but we get a series of filters. We reduce the numbers to 20-25 players per position. Then we give this list to the data department for an objective opinion of the players. We also sit with the coach to seek the profile of the player he is looking for," he would elaborate.
He says finding players to sign is not just about data or instincts anymore. It is also about when a coach's requirements are met with the philosophy and budgets of the club.
If money were no factor, he would be keen on bringing in Pedri (Barcelona) and Ferran Torres (Manchester City) to Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Monchi has a whiteboard behind him on the Zoom call with a football field marked in black ink. "The sports director’s position in the football world is increasingly gaining importance and there is a lot more training; leagues are really concerned about training professional people in sports management.”
For the club to continue to sign players that it deems fit, the club needs to stay in the Champions League for long because that is where the money is. But it is the second-tier competition in Europa League which Sevilla have made their own.
“It's like a love affair with the Europa League. Maybe other teams don’t give it that importance but it is in our mentality to win the Europa League. It's like a fetish league for us and it has made us really happy.”
Now 52, Monchi doesn't think he wants to create or leave a legacy at Sevilla. All he cares about is doing a good job for the club he supports.
"I am very proud, together with my colleagues, to be able to create a structure for sports management in the data department. I think we have got a very good structure of scouting and data at Sevilla.”
The next couple of weeks are pivotal for Monchi's club. First, Sevilla are at home to Barcelona in LaLiga on Saturday in a contest of third vs fourth. Next week, Barcelona host Sevilla in the second leg of Copa del Rey where Julen Lopetegui's men hold a 2-0 lead. On 9 March, Sevilla would travel to Borussia Dortmund to cut down a 2-3 deficit in the UEFA Champions League.
Zidane has always been a coach for the present, adapting and adjusting, his pragmatic approach well-suited to a year when nothing has been predictable.
European football matchday: Atletico Madrid face stern Sevilla test in bid for title; goalkeeper conundrum as Man United take on Brighton
A look at what’s happening in European football on Sunday.
Florentino Perez was the only name in the running since the window for potential candidates to apply opened at the start of the month.