In the first part of this three part series, Sevilla director of football Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo, better known as Monchi, outlines his philosophy behind setting up FC Sevilla’s sporting direction and his key theory of concentric circles for scouting players.
In 2000, after Sevilla were relegated from La Liga, Monchi was appointed director of football for the ‘Rojiblancos’. He was given two objectives by the board: develop the club’s youth system and implement a vast scouting policy inside and outside of Spain.
Monchi’s first strategic move was to professionalise the academy and focus more on player development, rather than purely on results. “When you work with younger teams, there’s always this dichotomy, this division between result and development,” said Monchi. I’ve always been firm on this. I’ve always been very consistent in showing people that the most important thing was player development. The results come later, because the more the player improves, the better the results will be.“
During his time with Sevilla, Monchi discovered future international Spanish stars such as Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas and Jose Antonio Reyes, while also finding a number of profitable bargains in the form of Adriano, Julio Baptista, Ivan Rakitic and Seydou Keita.
The concentric circles theory
But how does Monchi execute his scouting strategy? One key factor is his ‘concentric circles theory’. “In terms of the scouting department, I’ve always had an obsession,” said Monchi. “I always thought that the more times we were able to watch a player, the easier it would've been to make decisions. So we worked and realized what I call the ‘concentric circles theory’. Concentric circles, from the smaller one to the bigger and then the bigger. Basically, we were building a framework that allowed us to dominate a certain range.”
"I’ve always been very consistent in showing people that the most important thing was player development. The results come later, because the more the player improves, the better the results will be.“
Applying the concentric circles theory to the setting up of Sevilla’s scouting department, Monchi started with a small sector of countries to cover, before expanding out further. “If there were three of us the first year, why would we cover the whole world when it was impossible?” explains Monchi. “We tried to be strong in a certain sector. For example, in Spain, Portugal and France to begin with. When there were five of us, we tried to add Italy, England and Belgium. We did that, growing to what we are today, dominating around 30-35 major leagues in an exhaustive way. We always tried covering and knowing what we were able to, in order to have good knowledge. Knowledge is the basis for all scouting work.”
What makes a successful director of football?
Part of Monchi’s philosophy is that football is a sport but is also a game, in which you have an important component of luck. With part of his daily work being to minimize this luck component as much as possible.
“I think I had the luck of always having a good connection with the manager,” said Monchi. “Always knowing what every manager needed in every moment, even if I made mistakes many times, I think it was key to nurture the players. In the end, a Sporting Director sells players at a good price only if they perform well. If they don’t perform well, then as good as I may be, I can’t sell them. To allow them to perform well, to play well, it’s important to only sign players that fit perfectly to the profile that the manager wants.”
Where can signings go wrong?
“When do signings go wrong? When you’re not able to understand what the manager wants, things start to go bad and the performance is not good,” said Monchi. “There’s something fundamental to me - I’ve always been a ‘locker room’ Sporting Director, very close to the players, to the people. But sometimes we forget they’re people.
Footballers are people and you have to be very close to them and try to help them, know them, and give them what they need. All of this is part of my way of working: work hard, have good coordination with the manager and stay close to the players.”