Now, it is not a new concept that often a director of football, a chief scout or someone within the club’s hierarchy has the final say in player signings and not the manager. However, is it fair on the manager? Or is this actually a necessity for clubs to function in the long term?
For those that are not fully convinced that this occurs, there a few notable examples. Firstly the Xisco signing at Newcastle that ended up Kevin Keegan walking, due to feeling undermined. Another case is at Chelsea where Roman Abramovich sanctioned the signings of players before Di Matteo was appointed in the last transfer window, hence why the manager was called a head coach. I also struggle to believe that Tottenham supporters think that Hugo Lloris was the first name AVB wanted to get in the door, but is this really an issue?
I am not sure it is, when you take the example of West Brom, who have a chairman who fully admits they don’t have plenty of money to spend on players, with only a set amount of financial backing. Each signing proves so crucial, that in order to seek the bargains they have there needs to be a long term plan to be able to successfully pull this off. West Brom are not going to pull off a stunning loan deal through a panic loan on deadline day, they have flourished recently due to meticulous planning within their investment policy.
The solution they provided to this problem was to employ Dan Ashworth as sporting and technical director, to oversee the development of the club at all levels including transfers. He has picked out potential signings for them in next summer’s transfer window as he looks to leave his mark on the club. It clearly has been seen as a success with Ashworth now set to join Hodgson at the FA, as a reward for his hard work with the Baggies and the side currently sitting in the Champions League positions.
It makes sense too, whilst we trust our managers to make tactical decisions and substitutions, isn’t it a bit ambitious for our boss to know all the best talents in the world alongside all his other roles? Don’t get me wrong it is important that the manager has in a say in who is signed, because he has to integrate them into his style of play, but he can’t do it all by himself.
At Newcastle United, they employ chief scout Graham Carr, to scour the globe for the best talents, hence an influx of French speaking players, with Carr finding suitable players for an acceptable price. I think that every club is looking for a bargain and the best deal whilst selling clubs are also looking to sell their player for as much as physically possible to make a hefty profit, so trusting a man who can’t solely focus on player recruitment is too much to ask.
There is also a lot to consider in player signings, some are just signed as short term fixes and immediate first team solutions, but then there is a grassroots level of football, where the club needs to have youngsters looking to break through into the first team. If the signing is high profile it is important that the Manager takes a look first hand at what he is signing, by watching the player live if he can. Despite this, he sometimes with all his other duties simply does not have the time to take a look at every player the club will bring in, and has to trust and having a working relationship with the person that does.
An interesting point to raise in the this long term planning debate, is that in the signing of Hugo Lloris as while a lot of Spurs fans accept he wasn’t a necessity they can see the long term gains in purchasing such a player. He is the type of goalkeeper who has impeccable distribution which could be pivotal in Tottenham’s counter attacking play, as he can release Bale and Lennon on the wing earlier than Brad Friedel does, and this could be to devastating effect. The fact that Lloris was available for what was mooted to be around £8 million could prove to be stunning business in the long term.
It is vital that football teams can take a bigger view on things and sign players at the right moment for the club, an example of this could be Fernando Llorente. In the summer Athletic Bilbao were insistent on keeping their player, but now the price could fall with the striker reportedly keen to move and his contract nearing its finishing point, it could be a perfect time for one of the top four to swoop in and bring him to the Premier League. There is also a balancing point in that clubs can only sign players when others are sold and decide again accordingly if and when they can afford to bring in a replacement with the transfer fee they receive such as is the case at Everton. Moyes sold Rodwell to Man City for £15 million but could only spend £6million on reinforcement to his squad which he had to use wisely on Kevin Mirallas. A transfer also involves several other factors than just the fee, with wages, signing on fees and agents, it appears to be fair that the club’s hierarchy have the ultimate say on what they spend their money on.