The 50-year-old spoke extensively about his second stint with the Los Hispalenses, the signings he made in his first and their impact.
Commonly known as ‘Monchi,’ the name Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo may not ring bells for most of us, but this man has been a vital cog in Sevilla’s success lately. The 50-year-old is their former goalkeeper, who, for the majority of his career, played second fiddle to Juan Carlos Unzué.
He retired in 1999, 11 years after making his professional debut.. But, despite not having an illustrious career, he has become a fan-favorite among the Sevilla faithful and all of it is because of his second innings for Los Hispalenses.
Just at the turn of the millennium when Sevilla were relegated from the Spanish top division and faced financial crisis, Monchi took the reins with two key challenges as he was appointed the sporting director of the club.
First, he was tasked with developing the youth system so the club could nurture their own stars in the future and secondly to implement a vast scouting policy all over the globe to spot potential stars.
Exclusive: Monchi speaking to Khel Now about his life, finding Dani Alves, Unai Emery and more
Since his appointment, the 50-year-old has done wonders with the club. One of the magnificent squads he assembled cost a little over €25m, consisting of shot-stopper Andrés Palop, a defence of Dani Alves, Federico Fazio, Martin Cáceres and Adriano, the midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Júlio Baptista, Seydou Keita and Christian Poulsen and Luís Fabiano, with Carlos Bacca upfront.
From costing €25m to being sold for around €170m. A mean profit of potent scouting and intelligent bargaining. Then there were players he did not have to buy, but just to sell at the right margin; A total of €100m for Sergio Ramos, Jesús Navas, Alberto Moreno, Luis Alberto and José Antonio Reyes: the cream of the crop from Sevilla’s academy.
“Well the truth is, it’s been a professional journey that I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. To achieve what we’ve achieved in these years (2000-2017) is something unthinkable, but of course, it fills me with happiness, satisfaction and pride.“
A fan remembers a club by their trophies, by the exceptional goals and the star players, but not by the profits they made in the market. The trading scenario has eventually grown on the industry and the need for a Director of Football now seems imperative.
The importance of a Director of Football or a Sporting Director has increased rapidly
Monchi compared the changes in the industry to when he started, “Well it’s changed a lot. I think the role has been practically turned on its head,” he began.
“When I started, the role was sort of there, shoehorned in, not very well-known; these days, I think the position is very important in the building of a club’s squad. I think the current system is more logical than in the past. We’re talking about the person that manages nearly 60-70% of the functions of the club. Which is why I think it needs to have important standing.”
Down the years, Sevilla have scouted some of the best talents in the world including the most decorated player of all-time, Alves. “Well, I think the player you can be proud of having discovered, alongside my colleagues in the scouting team, is Dani Alves, no? Among other reasons because he’s now the player with the most titles won ever,” the Spaniard asserts.
Dani Alves joined FC Barcelona in 2008
“He was the perfect project – an unknown player we were able to find, who we gave the time to grow, who we saw grow, who won titles and was then sold in a very important transfer. What’s more, he still loves this Club, so he’s the perfect example.”
“Being able to have scouts means you can have good networks, you can have access to information generated from the different competitions, which is fundamental to making decisions.”
Sevilla boast of a network with more than 700 scouts all over the world and Monchi insists that a good scouting network is the key to a club’s success. “I think it’s key. It’s like turning the light on when you’re in a dark room. When you’re in a dark room you have two options: you can keep your eyes closed or try and have the capacity to open your eyes and see what’s out there and I think scouts give you that capacity,” he quipped.
Frédéric Kanouté: The fourth-highest goalscorer for Sevilla
His top three signings, as he told the Guardian in 2016, are Kanouté, Fabiano and Alves. Monchi kept on finding hidden prospects and sold them on for huge margins, but the winning never stopped.
Before Monchi, Sevilla had won just four trophies in their history and none in 52 years. Then, nine came in 16 years in his first spell in an executive capacity at the club. After returning to La Liga in 2001, the club climbed the ladder steadily to first cement their position in the top half of the table and now they are often seen around the big three of Spain, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona.
The key to their success was not their financial backing in the market, but as Monchi believes, it’s the knowledge of who and when to buy. “Being ahead, being ahead of the other clubs. Trying to get any information that can be valuable and having the mechanisms necessary to access that information.”
One of the turning points for him and the club was the arrival of Unai Emery from Spartak Moscow. It was an appointment which made Sevilla the most successful club in the Europa League and saw them become regulars in the Champions League as well.
The man who dominated UEFA Europa League with Sevilla
They won the Europa League in 2014, Rakitic and Alberto Moreno left. They defended the title in 2015 following which Aleix Vidal and Bacca left. They completed the UEFA Europa League hat-trick in 2016 and Kevin Gameiro, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Coke left for huge profits.
When Emery left for Paris Saint Germain in 2016, Monchi too did not stay for long. By April the following year, he joined AS Roma and continued his trademark work.
In his first year, he oversaw the sales of Mohamed Salah, Leandro Parades, Antonio Rudiger and Emerson Palmeiri for a total of €120m, plus another €25m in bonuses. Doing what he does best.
“Well, in Rome, there were two different phases. The first year was a successful year, a magical year, where we managed to get results that hadn’t been seen in 25 years. Qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League and finishing third in the league,” he reflected.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) July 24, 2018
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) July 24, 2018
“…I told [Bordeaux’s president] that, for us, it would not be ideal – as we are listed on the stock exchange and have to respect certain rules – but he insisted and they did a tweet to announce the agreement.”
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) July 24, 2018
“The second year, well, football has an in-game factor that didn’t turn out so well. But I don’t think it was extremely bad either. The day I left Roma the team was fifth, one point off the Champions League spots which was the primary objective.“ Although, Monchi conceded that mistakes were made during his time in the Italian capital, the expert negotiator says he has fond memories of his time with the Romans.
Shortly after his time in Italy, he returned home to Sevilla. He regained his office by April 2019. Even after being one of the most sought-after DoFs in the industry and with more attractive offers on the table, he still chose to come back.
“I thought it was the moment to come back. Sevilla gave me the chance and I’m very happy to be here again. We’re now moving forward to achieve successes in the future.”
On the difference between the Spanish and Italian football and their variation in functionality Monchi said, “Basically, what I said at that moment is that Italian football – with respect to what I experienced with Roma – it’s a diverse club, it’s different to Sevilla with the social and media repercussions it has.
“It’s a club with the capacity to generate information and generate emotions, which, positive or negative, are really big. Which is why working at that level wasn’t easy and that allowed me to grow.”
“With respect to two different styles of football, of course, there are differences. In Italy they have a more tactical, methodical and measured game. In Spanish football there’s more emphasis on the capacity of each player to make decisions spontaneously.”
Times have changed and certainly demands from a Sporting Director have changed too. Monchi insists that the role demands a lot from a person as he said, “Well it isn’t easy, but if you had to narrow it down – ability to work, ability to delegate and ability to make sacrifices.
“All of that is tied together with good communication with the coach. I think those are the parameters of a good Sporting Director.” Who does he think is the best? Well, alongside him!
“I think when you consider the elite scouting operations – Fabio Paratici of Juventus has to be up there. I think Andrea Berta of Atlético Madrid is up there, I think of Michael Zorc of Borussia Dortmund. I think those three have to be the Sporting Directors with the biggest reputations in the footballing world.”
Lastly, having seen the progress of Indian football, the vast growing market, Monchi told us that Sevilla need to try and expand to India after several clubs like Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Basel have made deals with the likes of Minerva Punjab and Chennai City FC respectively.
“I think Sevilla promotes the internationalisation of its brand and you can’t leave out such an important market that’s growing as much as the Indian market is. I think we need to try and expand in a lot of directions and one of those directions needs to be India.”