We are now in the era of the director of football.
In the past, it used to be that the coach was the supreme leader of a football club. they would be directly involved in almost every aspect of the club, whether it be in training sessions, working on transfers and contracts or laying the groundwork for the future. the buck stopped with them.
However, times have changed and power has slowly slipped out of the hands of the manager.
Having a dedicated director of football is very much in vogue at the world’s biggest clubs, but it is a concept that is still relatively foreign in the minds of many football fans. in fact, even former armory chief arsene wenger has scoffed at the idea.
“director of football, I don’t know what that means,” Wenger once declared haughtily. “is it someone who stands in the way and directs players from left to right? I never understand what it means, director of football.
“I am the manager of the arsenal and as long as I am, I will decide what happens on the technical front. That’s all.”
so what is a director of football? goal brings you everything you need to know.
what is a soccer director?
The role of a director of football (sometimes known as sporting director or technical director) is not always clearly defined, but he is part of the top management of a club and transfers are often his main task.
Their responsibilities can vary from club to club, with some being heavily involved in all aspects of the business, including hiring and firing managers, scouting, player recruitment, long-term strategy and improvement. of the facilities. in other cases, the role may be a bit more specialized, depending on the particular talents of each individual.
Those taking on roles as directors of football often have a history in the sport and a wide network of contacts, while others simply have experience in similar administrative roles.
A director of football is very different from a first-team coach, but they work closely together and situations have occasionally arisen where directors have temporarily taken over the reins of a team.
On a day-to-day basis, they generally serve as a kind of buffer between the manager and the board of directors of a club. the idea is to allow the coach to fully focus on game preparation and on-pitch issues, while also providing insight into possible targets.
To give an example of a parallel in other sports, the general manager in American football fulfills a role similar to that of a director of football.
Which clubs have soccer directors?
many of the biggest clubs in the world employ a director of football.
In the past, it was predominantly a feature of continental European clubs, but the role has become central to the running of a number of English clubs now too.
The likes of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan have all employed directors of football with varying levels of success.
Notably, Premier League giants Manchester United do not have a director of football, but the club is in the process of seeking a suitable candidate for the role.
The Red Devils will follow rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in incorporating this work into their club structure.
featured football directors
With the role of director of football becoming a feature of more clubs around the world, those carrying out the job have come under much scrutiny.
manchester city director of football txiki begiristain, who served as barcelona’s director of football before joining the premier league club in 2012, is one of the most notable examples.
Begiristain is the man responsible for some big Barcelona signings, including Dani Alves, Rafa Marquez, Yaya Toure and Eric Abidal. however, the same man also failed to sign players like keirrison and alexander hleb, who failed at camp nou.
At man city, begiristain has overseen the club’s transfer policy, helping bring in success stories like fernandinho and gabriel jesus, as well as questionable acquisitions like eliaquim mangala and nolito. The Basque native provided insight into the role in a 2018 interview with the BBC.
“You don’t need to change 11 players every year. You need to change two or three,” Begiristain said.
“If you win, you need to bring someone to create competition. If not, you have to improve some pieces, but the idea remains and the work is there to try to win again.”
another notable example from spain is monchi, a stalwart from seville who is credited with discovering such stars as jesús navas, sergio ramos and jose antonio reyes, as well as playing a key role in the profitable landing bargains, including dani alves, ivan rakitic and julio baptista.
monchi, whose real name is ramon rodriguez verdejo, joined the serie a side roma in 2017 as the club’s director of football and was praised for signing players including bryan cristante, justin kluivert and robin olsen. He subsequently returned to Seville in 2019, despite links to the first division team Arsenal.
Brazilian director of football alexandre mattos has also been hailed as the brains behind the success of several clubs, building trophy-winning squads in cruzeiro and palmeiras.
There’s also Leonardo, who serves as PSG’s chief recruiter and previously served in the role from 2011 to 2013. The former Brazilian international helped lure Carlo Ancelotti to the club and is also credited the transfers. by thiago motta and javier pastore.
Leonardo joined his former club AC Milan in 2018, where he was assisted by club legend Paolo Maldini, but quickly returned to PSG in 2019.
the signings of juan mata, eden hazard and n’golo kante at chelsea were thanks to the work of michael emenalo, who, on the other hand, also supervised the arrival of players like marko marin and loic remy. Emenalo also worked in Monaco, where he oversaw the arrival of Willem Geubbels, Aleksandr Golovin, and Cesc Fabregas, among others.
Damien Comolli is one of the most divisive football managers in the game, having worked with a number of clubs including Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Saint-Etienne. he now works as director of football at the turkish club fenerbahce.
The France native enjoyed much success in his early roles and was the man behind Arsenal’s signing of Kolo Toure, as well as Tottenham’s landing of Luka Modric and Dimitar Berbatov. however, his reputation suffered during his period as director of football for liverpool.
Named shortly after Fenway Sports Group took control of the Reds, Comolli’s spell saw him sign players based largely on statistical analysis, leading to money being squandered on the likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and charlie adam.
jordan henderson was another comolli acquisition and, interestingly, the frenchman believes that henderson’s performances were what led to his dismissal.
“He [henderson] is one of the main reasons I got fired,” comolli said in a 2016 interview with talksport. “The day I was fired [Liverpool owners] told me that he had made a big mistake with Jordan and that it was a waste of money.
“I never said it publicly, but I was convinced that he would be the future captain. people will say that it is easy to say now, but at that time I was convinced that he would become the captain of liverpool. now he is and he is also England’s captain.”
the case of dennis wise at newcastle united is another strange example of how things can go wrong after the former chelsea midfielder clashed with manager kevin keegan over signing players not desired. Keegan resigned in frustration over politics and sued the club for constructive dismissal.
goal understands that erik stoffelshaus, former sporting director of lokomotiv moscow, is among those being considered for the manchester united director of football job. Others who have been touted for the job include Edwin van der Sar, Luis Campo, and Paul Mitchell.