By Cameron Deacon – @Cam_Deacon21 – U.K. Football Writer
“There are only two players who could possibly reach the level of Ronaldo and Messi…”
Let’s be honest, we’ve all thought about it. At some point in our lives we have genuinely considered a career in Football Scouting. We have all looked up the prices of the course and we have genuinely considered a future where finally you could prove that you do know a good footballer when you see one. We’ve all told our friends about the next Andy Robertson playing their way in Scotland’s third tier and everyone claims to have the greatest young player in football sitting in their academy that no-one, but they, know about.
So then what is it like? The behind the curtain world of football, the room where agents and scouts meet to discuss who the next Mbappe is going to be. For those people, the perspective on Football must be very different, your expertise in the game becomes so dilute that every pass and movement means something different.
To uncover a bit more about what it means to work in Scouting and Football analysis I spoke to German born Football Scout and Analyst Luis Kircher. Luis works as head of recruitment at Total Football Analysis and has produced some genuinely breath-taking breakdowns of footballers and their performances. If you want a good tip on a future star seriously go and take a look at some of his work. So, I wanted to know how Luis first started in Scouting and also how tough is it to do, as one of the most competitive markets in the game?
“I started to complete football-specific courses in scouting and analysis very early. As a result, I got several certificates that prove my knowledge. In addition, I started to analyse football matches, teams, and players for Total Football Analysis. The experiences, values, and contacts that I learned to appreciate there, have helped me a lot in my rise into the football business. I am incredibly grateful for that and can recommend starting in this or a similar way. At the same time, I learned for my German high school diploma so that I am studying Football Management now to enlarge my knowledge even further.”
“In terms of competition It’s really very tough. If you go to a high-quality U17 or U19 match these days, almost 80% of all spectators are scouts from clubs or player agencies. It is extremely important to act quickly. Certain perseverance in addition to the specialist knowledge is key. Therefore, certificates and well-founded study programs are always an advantage. This is not only reflected in the practical work, but also in the opportunities for employment.”
It’s in interesting answer that Luis gives because my whole life I had assumed that if you wanted to get into an industry then all you need to do was gain as much experience as possible and with specific education and learning people will notice the experience before the certificate. Obviously in the Scouting world experience is still vital but you are facing up against people with the same amount of experience, so to stand out those footballing courses could really make a difference. It may show your range and how far your knowledge expands. For example Luis mentions that he has a B.A in Football Management, now even though this isn’t scouting specific it still stands out because it shows that he understands more aspects about football and football players, beyond just how good their first touch is.
I’ve always assumed that Scouts must watch a lot of Football, because I watch a lot of football and if it was my job, I don’t think I’d ever watch anything else, so I asked Luis. How much football do you watch a week and how do you prepare yourself for those games?
“That varies depending on the time, competition and match day. Live on-site, I watch an average of 3-4 matches a week. In addition, there are an average of 10-12 matches, depending on the season phase, which I watch in replays at home.
When it comes to preparation first, I’ll look at which matches could be interesting in the coming week. Since kick-off times sometimes overlap, the first priorities have to be drawn. It is also important to find out about the teams, their last matches and local events. All of these things can ultimately be decisive. I also prepare specific player reports that ultimately help me to evaluate the respective player during the match.”
So do you ever go to a game to watch an individual player or do you wait for someone to catch your eye? I asked.
“As a rule, I go to matches to look at a certain player that the agency and I already are interested in and would like to observe even more intensively. However, there are also exceptional cases. If another player stands out positively in the same match, he will be listed and possibly also scouted and analysed afterwards. “
That’s a fact that has always interested me, to set out looking at one player and then have your head turned by another. Imagine you are sent to an u23 fixture by the club or company you work for to look at a specific player but then find yourself getting drawn into someone else. It must be frustrating knowing that you may have to wait till another time to have that chance again. But to turn your head a player must be good, so I wondered what does Luis look for in a player, what does he personally think signals potential?
“Today, scouting is no longer just about talent identification. Ultimately, almost everyone who is intensely involved with football can recognize and identify potential talents. But the scouting continues. We analyse the player much more extensively and therefore more meaningfully. It used to be crucial that the player was big, fast and technically gifted. Today things like technique, physique and athleticism are still essential. However, the mentality, the body language and the behaviour on and next to the place are also an elementary part of the scouting process. Of course, it helps a player if he has one outstanding strength. However, it is more important to keep all attributes at the highest possible level and in balance.”
I think this is an interesting perspective to have. Because I look at someone like Dele Alli and I think he has a questionable attitude. He is clearly passionate off the field and yet he continues to act like a child on the field. And this is a player who has already made it, he clearly has amazing footballing talent so would someone like Luis have picked him out at youth level or has this attitude only developed once he did make it into the big leagues? I believe this was the case as highlighted by Luis’ next answer where I asked what attributes could signal that a player isn’t as good as they first seem?
“That is the job of scouting. As I said, it is no longer just about talent identification per se. Aspects like the mentality and behaviour of the player have become very important. If a player is technically good, has good basic athletics and physics, but is mentally not ready to take the next step, he will not make it.”
Graham Carr is a legendary name in the world of Scouting. You may not know his name but you will know the players that he uncovered. Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Moussa Sissoko, Loic Remy, Gini Wijnaldum and Cisse were all brought into Newcastle because of his work in France and Holland. He made the dreams of many footballers come true and made Newcastle a lot of money and in turn a decent amount of success. And yet today Newcastle may sign someone like Joelinton for 40 million! Done right scouting can bring a lot of success but done wrong it could waste a lot of money. So how is it that some teams still get it wrong when it is one of the most important aspects of a Football club?
“The football business is growing faster and faster. But in my opinion, there is still not enough qualified staff. It is fundamental to learn things and that includes football-specific study programs. These are still not offered enough. In addition, technical progress in many clubs, including professional football, has not been implemented far enough yet. Nevertheless, I see positive development in the last few months. More and more clubs are interested in trained and experienced analysts to improve their recruitment system. No recruitment system works without high-quality tactic analysis and data analysis – the clubs are noticing this more and more. When you look at clubs like Liverpool, you can see that some clubs are in identifying and recruiting players that fit the playing style of their teams already.”
Today it seems that a good scout is one that doesn’t necessarily go for the best player on the field but instead the best player that would fit a specific team. So to end the interview I put Luis on the spot.
In your opinion who is the best teenage footballer at the moment, most underrated footballer and a future Ballon’ dor winner?
“Due to the professionalization of youth academies in Germany, England, Italy and Spain, there are a lot of top talents who all have the potential to become a superstar in future. However, Youssoufa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund) and Jamal Musiala (FC Bayern Munich, formerly Chelsea FC) are very far ahead.
Likewise, there are many underrated footballers who have incredibly good statistics. Most of them are defensive midfielders. But I think Roberto Firmino deserves more recognition. He’s been doing very well for several years and in my opinion, he’s even more important for the Liverpool game than Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané. It is only through Firmino’s tactical understanding, his movement and his technical elegance that the two wingers excel.
As of now, there are only two players who could possibly reach the level of Ronaldo and Messi to shape a new era. For me, these are Kylian Mbappé and Jadon Sancho. But here, too, it remains to be seen how both will develop further.”
A big thank you to Luis for offering us his insight into the world of Scouting and seriously do go and look at some of his reports.