vector mediumcurrent sports director of Leeds, went through the microphones of ‘La Pizarra de Quintana’ with Miguel Quintana, Lex de Llano and Adrian Blanco to discuss his career path and what his current role with the English Premier League team entails.
quietest month: “All these processes, as you know, are complicated. When a change occurs there are many things to manage, it is very hard, very hard. They are decisions. You have to lead. It is not easy at all. Now at least the points too. Winning is always the best medicine“.
Separate decisions from the personal: “One of my problems is that. I don’t know the difference between the personal Victor and the professional. I live it in a way, that based on my way of living it, I don’t know how to differentiate it. I don’t know how to divide one thing from the other. It affects you in every way, in the globality of your person and in the responsibility that you have as a professional before your board of directors, your fans… to try to make the right decisions”.
Dismissal Bielsa: “There isn’t one reason and there are all of them. It’s a painful, difficult decision. The president explained it and we felt it was time. We don’t have a crystal ball to decide and know what can happen. We believe that it was the right decision and we will see if it is and not. We take it with all the consequences, of course.”
Jesse Marsch’s choice: “We have been analyzing their methodology and game model for a long time. We made a filter to look for teams that had a similar game model, for some time now because, just as you follow footballers, you follow coaches, and we were analyzing . I liked his model of high pressure, of intensity. It seemed to me a transition, within being a change, quite moderate. I liked his motivation, his way of understanding the importance of transition. We had many points in common. There were many candidates, they were filtered and that decision is made weighing pros and cons. Obviously information is collected from other players, managers, people who have worked…”.
Contact with the coach: “I would find it hard to believe that there are no sports directors who do not do it like this. I think that going to training every day, under my sports management model, does not convince me. I think leadership is divided. Evaluate your coach’s methodology in the 21st century, when you hired him, if you hadn’t valued him before, you were wrong. I can access training through a remote video platform from anywhere in the club. I got close from the trainer, daily synergy information. I can solve any problem through the trainer. I am close with the player, I keep a personal distance with the players and every time I go there my message is clearer. I generate a leadership message when I go three times a month. Maybe pre-match and post-match you can see me around the hotel. After 17 years in this I think I have to have the ‘close distance’, close enough with distance for many reasons.”
Personal distance with the footballer: “In the end I have to make some decisions that if I’m here in the morning and a player comes to me and says: ‘Hello, Victor, how are you? How is your son? I crossed the other day’, and another one comes to me and says: ‘Good morning’, or he doesn’t greet me or he makes a bad face It has a personal influence on me because we are people and we believe in human distance and empathy.. In a decision-making process you don’t have to have that influence.”
What do you do in your day to day: “I have a very large task of global management of all the sporting decisions of the club. First informative work, an hour, hour and a half reading me the reports of my explorers. Classifying the information, managing it… Then there are a lot of meetings with agents, with the club’s human resources. The day I go to the sports city, the interaction with the coach and I always free up two/three hours to watch football, we must not stop doing it. In the end a sports director, when I started this, Monchi says it a lot, that he went from player to delegate and from delegate to sports director. There were no training courses, almost nothing.”
Work on yourself to improve: “We are very self-taught. There is a book, ‘Range’, very good, which has a lot of sports things. In the end, the sports director has to do many general things from the specialty. What is that? You have to know a little at a technical-tactical levelbe up-to-date and it takes time; you have to know a bit of laws: Brexit, payment to agents, contractual situation, FIFA regulations…; you have to know of Economy: salaries, depreciation, budgets…; you have to know a little about human resources: managing your group of explorationthe personal…; you have to know languagesEnglish, Italian, Spanish; a bit of Big Datahave knowledge to handle these tools”.
It hasn’t always been like this: “At the end of the 80s there was a big division between the players, the personal and the directive, that even in success, there were sometimes crises. In this sense, the figure of the sports director has been created. The sports director is a bridge that unites both worlds, with one foot in management and the other in sports, with the ability to inject leadership and confidence on each side.. The languages that are spoken with the owners and the one that is spoken on the pitch are very different, there are different objectives and the language is different. You have to connect those two worlds in that way, in a way the ability to make decisions with resilience and anti-fragility to generate a lot of confidence in a world where 30 years ago in football it was very separate and almost always in conflict.
Handling options in a list: “With Jack Harrison, for example. Fortunately it went quite well. We had Harvey Barnes locked down, he decided to go to West Bromwich on loan at the last minute. We had Jozefzoon, but he took the wrong train and went to Derby. And Jack was the third option. We believe in the method, in decision-making, we must admit, David Villa convinced me. I spoke with him, a former colleague of David Villa’s depth, when I spoke with him it marked me a lot. I have done 600 Calls like these, calling people to talk about former teammates and there is 70% of which is a lukewarm judgment. You hang up and you stay the same. I also do it when people have called me, it gives you a lot of responsibility, huh. Comment on another club … If it is not a close friend of mine, it is hard for me not to give a lukewarm judgment because it seems to me to put you in other people’s statements. In the case of David Villa, his judgment was not lukewarm. He gave me a lot of confidence, he was key in hiring Jack Harrison.”
How much weight does it have to see a player live? “It has been reduced. During my time at Sevilla we tried to be the first. We watched the South American Under-20 friendly tournament and from there we hired Perotti and Fazio. In fact, Fazio was already hired at the South American. We had as a rule, in a football that not all the matches were seen on television, going to all the matches that were not televised in Sevilla. That was an advantage. There is free, democratic information, we are in the era of immediate information. A boy scores in the Second Division. Dutch division with 16 years and it is the day of his debut and 10 minutes later you see him on Twitter. What is your responsibility? Your responsibility before this tsunami of information manage the best filters to transform that information into useful knowledge for your club. That is the key. Live football is useful for your club. What used to be 75% – 25% is now closer to 50% – 50%. The video analysis makes you take advantage of the information and reduce that filter in knowledge and live football gives you that little point to convince you”.
raphinha: “Fortunately, Raphinha’s career is managed by a top-level player, Deco. He knows how to handle that. I’ve had several conversations with Deco. Deco helps me, there are others who don’t, Deco has helped. Deco He knows that the objective of the player who has bet on his soccer player is one: to save himself and stay in the Premier League. Everything that is in the future and to come. Raphinha does not have a clause if we stay in the Premier League, by the way. In that sense, the player and I have looked each other in the face and, with the help of those around him, we have said that now there is only one objective, which is to save Leeds United.. From there, it is clear that Raphinha’s football acceleration is one… He is a player that we found in the last hours of the market, because the club put him up for sale, in less than two hours our reaction was to put 17 million to take it away. On August 29 I received a call that Rennes put Raphinha up for sale, at 9 in the morning, I was in the barbershop I remember perfectly and at 11 they had an offer of 15 million that we raised to 17. On the 30th he plays, mark, take a private flight and on the 31st sign in Leeds. They signed Doku, the Belgian boy. The player walked through the door of Leeds United and I told him: ‘You’re going to invite me to the World Cup in Qatar, aren’t you?’ And he looked stupid, he didn’t believe it. And now we have been fulfilling those objectives. Now he knows that Leeds and his coaching staff, who have collaborated a lot, have helped his figure grow and have responded to us with great quality and being a differential player in the league. He has to remain the same and then come summer, when the time comes, there will be time for everything“.
Young players project at Leeds: “We have a project with the full support of the entire board of directors and the CEO. I identified that we had to anticipate and developed the ‘Anticipate Project Talent’ project with my scouting group of English people, who are the best in England, We had to reach the player much earlier because if we expected the player to make his debut, he would have minutes in the Championship… Like Brennan Johnson now, he is a newly minted Welsh international, the best young player in the English second division, he is already at 20 kilos. He has rejected Forest 17/18 from Brentford. My model was to have come to Brennan Johnson when I was 16 and we tried. But it could not be. It could have been Greenwood, Gelhardt, Lewis Bate… We have paid for these players between one and two million, so we reached about 20 players.”
template goal: “The average cost of the starter in the Premier League is between 25 and 30 million pounds. If I am able to get two in the squad, the model is more than justified. But if in addition to another two, maybe I will give them up and get a resource like a sale for 5 or 6 million, like the young Englishmen in the domestic market, you have to have a minimum, you can end up generating the resources to finance the project and that these players can reach the first team. It is a sports project. From an economic point of view, it sells very well to the board of directors. Hopefully with this project I would get 10 starters from Leeds United. The way I have to restructure the squad, which we did in agreement with Marcelo Bielsa, and it seems to me that it leaves us an incredible legacy is that we consider a squad of 18 players and then players 19, 20, 21, 22 have to be smaller 21 or 22 years old. We have been the youngest team to make their debut in the Premier League this season. ‘But Victor, you’re risking it, it’s relegation’ they’ll tell me. He has the risks of it. I’d rather give Gelhardt those 600 minutes and build a career than buy a career. And not giving those 600 minutes to a 31-year-old striker, triple the salary of Gelhardt… Of course there will be moments of risk and insecurity. When you build races you can reduce the distance with the greats because we can’t buy races, others can in this league… There is no limit. We have limits, we have to be creative in that. I’d rather build races than buy races“.
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