When Sven Mislintat departed his role as Head of Recruitment in the summer, it left behind a gaping hole in Arsenal’s scouting network.
This was a man responsible for finding Ousmane Dembele, Mats Hummels and Arsenal’s very own Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang when he was at Dortmund.
His legacy in north London, however, was far from the one he achieved in Dortmund. Mislintat left in controversial circumstances, falling out with the hierarchy after failing to discover the level of player that had made him so renowned in Germany.
Yet, Arsenal have their own version, and he’s achieved more than Mislintat ever did in English football.
The man in question is Francis Cagigao. Born in London to Galician parents, the 50-year-old is an FA Youth Cup winner with the club, spending much of his playing career in Spain.
Previously heading up Arsenal’s recruitment network in that district of Europe, he’s now Head of International Scouting at the Gunners, taking on a role that was richly deserved for discovering many of their great players of the modern era.
He’s regularly brought players from Spain over to England and was pivotal in recruiting Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla for the Londoners. Cagigao was also the man to discover a certain Robin van Persie.
But it’s the two men who played such a pivotal role in Arsenal’s draw against Chelsea that Mikel Arteta has his head scout to thank for.
Cagigao brought Hector Bellerin to the Gunners as a teenager in 2011 while his most recent discovery is helping to lead an Arsenal revolution.
Arsenal’s first scorer at Stamford Bridge was Gabriel Martinelli. An understated signing when he arrived, he’s now scored ten times in just 21 appearances this term.
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Martinelli feels like a generational talent, someone who has the ability to not only beat his man but finish clinically. His goal against the Blues was fine evidence of that, darting away from the Chelsea defence before taking his time to slot the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Just 18 years of age, the Brazilian is now proving to be a pivotal cog in the Arsenal machine, just as Fabregas and van Persie were. There was no Aubameyang on Tuesday but that didn’t matter as the teenager grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck for his team.
Martinelli’s mentality is first class and it’s a testament to Arsenal’s head scouting honcho that he was able to find someone with both technical and mental attributes in abundance.
Speaking after the draw at Stamford Bridge, Bellerin said of his goalscoring teammate: “A lot of people talk about his talent, but what people don’t see is that Gabi is a professional.
“He turns up early every day. He does all the stuff and everything anyone asks him to do. He is the first player to press and the last player to leave everything on the pitch.”
Now at the club for well over a decade, Cagigao is rarely seen in the public eye but he’s found a gem in Arsenal’s number 35. His work and the relationship he gains with the likes of Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Arteta will now be pivotal if the Islington club are to rediscover their former glories.
A true unsung hero behind the scenes, the experienced recruiter should be looking to establish himself as one of the key men in Arsenal’s revolution. After all, he has the necessary qualities.