Sep 092012

When did an English manager last win the Premiership? I have recommended the excellent book by Jonathan Wilson, “Inverting the Pyramid”, which tells us of how, basically, the English game has always lacked innovation, and their own arrogance has stopped them from seeing the need to evolve.

I got this report on a Spanish forward I had offered to a number of Football league clubs. Cristian finished his contract at Valencia CF and chose not to renew due to lack of opportunities with the first team. He was free, therefore zero cost, you cannot exactly expect to get Falcao on a free transfer…..

“I got the DVD’s sent through of this one and watched a couple of games – was nothing there that would suggest he is good enough for our first team. Tall, fairly good movement (always towards the ball) – lacked real pace or acceleration in behind, was more interested in receiving to feet and a simple lay off.  Slim frame, no power or strength and would struggle to adapt to the Championship in my opinion.”

How did this kid play for Real Madrid and Valencia CF for 5 years?

Cristian played for both Real Madrid and Valencia reserves, so he can’t be that bad, Arsenal watched and had over 80 reports done before signing Jose Antonio Reyes and still didn’t do all their homework. Cristian has signed this week in Spain for Mallorca and is being loaned to Atletico Baleares.

I took Fran Sandaza (came out of Valencia reserves, too) to Dundee Utd 4 season ago and he wasn’t as good as Cristian is now, in my opinion, Sandaza has now been signed by Rangers. Last season he was third top goal-scorer in Scottish Premiership for St. Johnstone. When I took him to Dundee, Roberto Di Matteo, another friend, never forgave me for not signing him at his club, MK Dons, at the time. I did sign Miguel Angel Llera there, though, and although he was considered initially very slow for English football, he is still playing in the Championship at Sheffield Wednesday, where his anticipation, dominance in the air and his technical ability still make him very attractive at 34. In the case of Fran, it is true, however, that he did not play very often for another friend, Gustavo Poyet, at Brighton in the Championship. Miku was a similar story (ex Valencia) and has now been signed on loan by Celtic Glasgow to play Champions’ League. Michu, I won’t even mention.

While working for Spurs in 2006, under Eddie Presland (with Frank Arnesson as director of football and Martin Jol as manager), I recommended they signed a young 18 year old Spanish lad, but they couldn’t agree that he would handle the physical English game. His name was David Silva. It took them many weeks of discussion, too, to make a final decision on Luka Modric for the same reasons, and was only Eddie Presland’s insistence that convinced them, as Mr Ed insisted that he would become one of the best midfielders in Europe, yet another one the “midgets”.

In 2009 while working for Stoke City, having been commissioned to do a study by Peter Coates and Tony Scholes on South American football opportunities, one of the players I strongly recommended was Javier Pastore, then at Huracan in Argentina and valued at 8 million usd, but they were also skeptical that he would adapt and Tony Pulis, the manager, wasn’t at all interested.  He now plays for PSG and is valued at over 50 million euros plus and Real Madrid have been interested in him for a few years now.

The stories go on. As you all know, I have lived Diego Forlan’s career alongside him and his family from when he was rejected from Peñarol aged 15. His suffering at Manchester United and his first of two golden boots at Villarreal, alongside another player who would surely fail in English Premiership, Roman Riquelme. Forlan is one of only 7 players to have won the European golden boot twice.

The very fine edge between success and failure is far from being a four line report from an old school scout!

I need not go any further than Iniesta and Xavi, they would have never been considered for English football before they ruled the world with both Barcelona and Spain. I dare not even mention Messi, and having had many a long discussion with UK scouts (mainly Premiership), and their insistence that player such be at least 1’80m to be able to play in the English game, makes me realize that they talk form the opposite end to their mouths.

The fact the English National team hasn’t won a thing for over 50 years and the team that do win anything are plagued with foreign players, says a lot for the English game.

Having lived and seen football grow in Spain for near on 25 years, where I truly learned about football from Benito Floro and have also travelled extensively throughout Central and South America watching football and learning from people like Richard Páez and Alexander Borges Guimaraes, I think I can identify if a player is able to adapt to different kinds of football or not, however, even signing Kaka seems to have been a mistake by Real Madrid, as was Anderson for Man U, and was Carroll for Liverpool.

I am, as you can imagine, pretty tired of this story, and the managers still give scouting jobs to their mates who used boot the ball up pitches without looking where and getting “stuck in”, and expect today they should still do the same in a very complex game of chess.