With the summer transfer market sure to kick into gear soon, who is involved in the recruitment process at the club?
Head of football Raul Sanllehi and managing director Vinai Venkatesham sat down with Laura Woods - and this is what they told her:
LW: So this summer, when we need to identify which areas we need to strengthen within this team, it might come from Unai saying ‘I’ve worked with this first team for a whole season, this is where I feel I need it’. A technical director will also have his say as well, a director of football [operations] will also have his say, and then you’ll go into the market and dip into the academy and identify who the right person is for that. And then ultimately, it will be a collective decision as to what person comes in and fills that role.
RS: That’s correct. What I would like to mention is that there’s not a clear starting point like ‘let’s sit down today and analyse what we need’. No. This is a process. It goes over the season, over many conversations, many formal and informal meetings. We start trimming down the strengths and weaknesses of the current squad and where we’re going. There are also injuries involved, there are performance issues involved, there are many things coming up. But yes, we initially identify the areas in which we need to strengthen the team. We start having more and more meetings in which we feed more and more information coming from the scouting and the data analytics. At the end of the day, we try to reach a consensus. It’s normally an easy process because we are very much aligned with our views on football and on our analysis of the players that we try to go for. At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, it’s a team effort.
LW: Fans see it as a window, a physical window, of when the window opens and when it closes. But ultimately it’s a very long process in the build up to that window as well.
RS: That’s a very good point. The window is really a theoretical thing. The window is a time where you are able to register players. You can finalise contracts, sign contracts and register contracts with each federation. That’s what Fifa understands by the window. That doesn’t mean that you don’t talk over the year. Of course you do. We talk with clubs, with players - we cannot start from scratch on July 1. It would not be possible. You need to be prepared. The window is actually the crystallisation of everything. It’s the end of the whole process. You have to [have] a specific window in order to keep some order there. But at the end, the window is a technicality to register players.
VV: And I guess, if we look back, we were having meetings around what we are going to do this summer back in October last year. Detailed meetings. Unfortunately, it’s a year-round process.
LW: I suppose the reason why fans look at the window so highly, or focus on it so much, is because sometimes you get deals that go through on deadline day and you think how can that happen if it’s a process that’s been going on for months and months and months, then it goes right down to the wire on the last day?
RS: I have to mention here that since I’ve joined the club sometimes I get some cultural shocks and this is one of them. You have a TV show on deadline day, it’s amazing! With a countdown! I don’t want to break the myth, but this is really artificial. It does happen, I agree, but sometimes…
LW: Fax machines break!
RS: Yeah, but that should never happen! You should avoid that.
VV: We don’t use faxes as much anymore! I can guarantee you that fax machines are not involved in the process anymore.
RS: No, but our policy and strategy you never follow 100 per cent, but we try to do things earlier. We just don’t think it makes sense to get to the last minute. Of course there are some times when negotiations take you to the end because in every negotiation there are three parts involved; the player and the two clubs. But sometimes one of the parts is really difficult to get moving and they think that by dragging it they can get better terms for their interests, but in principal I always try to avoid deadline day. I don’t advise that to anybody.
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