Scouting and recruitment unit: Jean-Michel Aulas (OL), the wrong way of history

It’s supposed to be the lethal weapon of the modern club. The one that turns a team with a modest budget into a serious candidate for Europe. Or the one that allows the better endowed teams to experience fairy tales at Monaco 2017. In Lyon, however, the recruiting unit present at the club has experienced chaotic last months. « The recruitment unit was one of the first concerns raised by Juninho, it was never resolved and it ultimately contributed to his departure., explained Thomas Lacondemine, biographer of the Brazilian, guest in Tour d’Europe. Juninho simply had Wyscout [logiciel spécialisé, NDLR] and that was it. We cannot deprive ourselves of a field analysis. […] In the end, Juninho was working with two people« .

« He’s just disgusted »: Why Juninho reluctantly leaves OL

A reality that Jean-Michel Aulas had no difficulty in justifying in the columns of the Team after the announcement of the departure of its sports director. « I am one of the people who considers that it is not necessary to have a lot of scouts, thus advanced the President of Lyon. In the professional world, you always have a trainer who defines, with a sports director or not, a certain number of profiles to look for. And in Lyon, we made considerable investments with IT teams to have all the video databases. Everyone who is involved in recruiting has these tools. Four people to supervise that is more than enough« .

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The land, the only justice of the peace

Insurance that leaves you wondering in 2021. Because neglecting your recruitment unit probably means saving on salaries and expense reports, but it is also and above all shooting yourself in the foot when making the right things. choice. « Having a recruiting unit allows two things: to find players, of course, but above all to reduce the margin of error, that’s the most important thing., thus enlightens us Antonio Salamanca, scout in particular passed by Villarreal, Tottenham or Liverpool. For that, you have to go see the matches« . In the world of scouting, it’s a golden rule: nothing replaces the field.

« The video and the field are complementary but there is a lot easier to read and translate when you are in the field., explains Gilles Grimandi, Arsenal scout for nearly 15 years. The camera field is smaller, we don’t see the player when he is off camera, we don’t see the warm-up, the body language …« .

Renowned for his high standards and his ability to find nuggets, Luis Campos refrains from recruiting any player without having been able to observe him several times with his own eyes on the meadow. « The first thing is the land, to move, summarized Loic Désiré, head of the recruitment unit in Strasbourg. For me, the first criterion for a recruiter is that, not staying in an office every weekend, moving around« . Quite the opposite of the vision advanced by Jean-Michel Aulas.

Is it time for Aulas to hand over to OL?

More than the method, it is also the number put forward by Jean-Michel Aulas that questions. As the YouTuber Wiloo rightly pointed out, all of OL’s direct or supposed competitors have a much higher number of scouts in their recruitment unit according to the counts present on site. Transfermarkt. At OM, for example, there are 7 working under the direction of David Friio, technical director. « At Villarreal, we were four recruiters on the first team, explains Antonio Salamanca. But then, in each region of Spain, there were one or two scouts. There we may reach 30 but not all work for the first team« .

I have friends who called me so we looked

In his delay, Jean-Michel Aulas will however see that he is not alone. On his arrival in Saint-Etienne, Claude Puel, spent in the meantime in the Premier League where scouting has taken a prominent place, explained that he was surprised by the activity of the latter. « When I arrived, I had to quickly direct the recruitment unit to other players knowing our economic situation., he recalled last January. The recruiters were going to see L1 matches, some of the Champions League. It makes me smile now because we were completely out of step« .

In Nantes, Antoine Kombouaré was even more transparent when formalizing the arrival of young Osman Bukari: « We do not have a recruitment unit. I have friends who called me so we looked. They made me some suggestions about this player« . Lyon, Nantes, Saint-Etienne: three clubs where presidential control is still on the agenda. For better, rarely, and for worse, often, in terms of recruitment. »In some clubs, the president can even sign players without the approval of the cell« , confirms Antonio Salamanca.

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« Each club has its own method of recruiting, shade Gilles Grimandi. If you have reliable and knowledgeable men around you, why not. But what is decisive in the success of a club is the success of its recruitment, at all levels. It is in vain to say that the biggest clubs can afford not to have recruiters since they take the 3-4 best players in Europe etc…, it is a mistake « .

A situation that is not unlike that of PSG at the moment, with the only Eric Pécout as a scout with Leonardo. « Barça have not done very well in their recruitments in previous years and today we can see the result, outbid the former player. Conversely, Liverpool have always been very precise in their purchases, not necessarily in mass but rather in quality on targeted needs and they have come back to the fore in recent years.« .

The good students of OM, Strasbourg or Rennes

Reputed to be the richest club in the world, Manchester United have long dragged their post-Ferguson period like a ball, where bad choices have multiplied. In the space of six years, nearly 45 scouts came to fill the Mancunian recruitment cell. Better, companies specializing in surveillance and investigation have been assigned to certain players to avoid a new Marcus Rojo case, as The Athletic explained in 2019: under severe legal sanctions in Argentina after complaints of violence from two men , the Argentinian had joined the Red Devils in 2014 without anyone knowing about the affair at the club, until a staff member types his name on Google …

In L1, the means may be different, the clubs that are doing the best are those that have followed the scouting revolution. Fortunately, these are the teams that shine in this 2021-2022 season: for various reasons, Marseille, Strasbourg, Rennes, Lens or Angers are spontaneously cited by our witnesses for the quality of their work. « Today, at the head of the clubs, we must put football specialists, says Grimandi. In Marseille, they put Pablo. In Rennes, I see Florian Maurice and Jérôme Bonnissel, they are football people, they are the ones who decide, they make good moves. I see in Strasbourg, Loïc Désiré, he knows football very well, he works well. The last word is always for those on the ground. That’s why we see this kind of profiles take power in the clubs« .

And Grimandi to finish by taking the example of the most prominent recruit in recent weeks in L1: « When we see Majer arriving in Rennes, we say to ourselves: ‘take’… I knew him and immediately thought it was a good idea« And guess who the young Croatian has released his benchmark match against this season?

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