Speaking exclusively with Get French Football News, recently departed Bordeaux scout Laurent Calippe discusses the reasons behind his departure and his views on scouting and the future of the Ligue 1 club.
With the end of the transfer window approaching, is the summer a busy time for you, or have you already done your hard work a while back?
Well this was a strange year at Bordeaux, because the club was bought, with Eduardo Macia [head of recruitment] arriving from Leicester with his team in May. And Bordeaux’s recruitment team was clearly not part of his plans, so he fired everyone. So I was sacked last week and it was pretty much the same for all of us – we were a team of four and we were all fired.
That’s life! Someone comes in with his own people, he doesn’t bother checking if those already there are good or bad – they’re not his people.
But anyway. Here’s how a normal year works. From August we start watching Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and National matches – I also looked abroad – Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal. We take stock in November of all the players we’ve seen. We try to see them several times. And we try to see each other’s players – so I’ll say to a colleague that I’ve spotted a player and ask them to see him too, for a second opinion.
So we exchange information and then report back to our sporting director at the beginning of December. And then we make the choices we need to make in terms of the January window – seeing if there are any opportunities available, any particular needs. But that’s not the main transfer window – that’s just if we have a player who is injured, or one who is really not working out, just trying to fill a gap. It’s kind of a substitute transfer window.
Then when January is over, we hit the road again with our lists, and then aim to watch even more the players who have had the most impact. The aim is to make the list shorter. Then we’ll make our recommendations to the sporting director in April and keep fine-tuning our choices, while the sporting director starts dialogues with his counterparts at the players’ clubs, the players’ agents and the players themselves, to see if they’d be interested in moving to Bordeaux.
Once we have an agreement, we wait until the beginning of June and, by then, if we’ve done our work well, that’s when all the contracts that need signing are signed. So by June, 70% of our window is done. It’s normally all agreed by May and signed by June so that the players can go on holiday stress-free, knowing for which club they’ll begin pre-season training in July.
So all these last-minute deals suggest that clubs haven’t quite done their work correctly?
Either they’ve made mistakes, or a deal fell through last-minute, or another club has turned up offering more money for one of our players so we’re short in a position. But in general 70% of the mercato is done by 1 July. Then from 1 July to 31 August is about opportunism.
So if you were still at Bordeaux you’d be on holiday right now?
No – because when I’m with a club, in July I’m already starting to watch teams’ pre-season matches to start to get an idea of their players. Because lots of clubs play their youth players in these friendlies, so it’s a chance to spot new talents who may be worth following.
So for a scout, the best time to take your holiday is in June. Except when there are tournaments, like this year – that’s the problem. For example, I was at the Toulon tournament for two weeks till 15 June. Then I had four days’ break. Then on 19 June I went – until 7 July – to the AFCON.
So from your point of view, Toulon, the Euro U21, the AFCON, are more important than, for example, last year’s World Cup?
Yes – the World Cup is for the big clubs! It’s not for us. Big clubs have money – they sign a cheque and they buy the player.
On that point, what is the different between a Ligue 1 scout and a Premier League scout?
The difference between us and the English and major leagues with all the money is that we scout players in the National, in Ligue 2, in the youth development set-ups, to keep readying them for Ligue 1. Then once they’re Ligue 1 ready, we keep them for a year or two and then sell them to England. We’re a selling league – we develop players in order to sell them, because we have no money.
Talking of players leaving France for England, there is of course a player who has just come back to France from England – Laurent Koscielny, who has just joined Bordeaux. I see on twitter you’re not too convinced that this is a good move?
It’s not at all the choice that I would have made. Buy a 34-year-old, spend €5m on him, pay him around €3.3m a year. For me, no, he’s not the player I’d have recruited. He’s the type of player I’d have thought might have gone to China, gone somewhere for more money – ok, he’s decided to stay in France, but I wouldn’t have invested that much money, if I’d been at Bordeaux, on a 34-year-old. Yes, he’s got lots of caps, a good reputation, he’s a very good player. But they’ve signed him for four years! Four years at three million, three and a half million a year! They’re giving him 15 million over four years!
So you would instead have invested in younger players?
Yes, like Briançon from Nimes. He’d have cost €3m, but he’s 23, 24, and we could have helped him to the next level at Bordeaux and then, in two years, maybe sold him on to a major championship such as the English league for €8-12m. But we’ll never sell Koscielny! They said they wanted the Bordeaux model to be about trading – but you trade with youngsters, not 34-year-olds!
Is it [head of the sporting sector, Hugo] Varela and Macia who said that? Have they changed their “project” or was it just a one-off?
Yes, it’s them. No, my personal opinion is that they did it to bring in a big name to try to distract from the pathetic summer transfer window that they’re running.
You beat me to it – I was about to ask you what you thought of Bordeaux’s summer window? Not many others have come in either?
For the moment I don’t think it’s been very good at all! Not at all!
On the plus side there’s the Korean – Hwang. We were watching him last year. But we couldn’t bring him in because in Korea they have to do their military service and he hadn’t done his yet. But you get let off if you win the World Cup or the Asian Cup. And he won the Asian Cup. So it meant him coming back onto the French market. And Bordeaux signed him. But he’s one whom we’d already been looking at for a year. Because we thought he was a good player, a good person, and good from an exposure point of view in Korea.
But – for example, you bring in [Loris] Benito from Switzerland. But he’s 27.
Then there’s Mexer and Enoch Kwateng who have come in – they were absolutely not our choices. Macia’s policy is to bring in players available for free. Kwateng was free. Mexer was free and Benito was free. So the main reason they were taken was because they cost Bordeaux nothing.
So do you feel like you’ve done a year’s work for nothing?
Yes, absolutely. Because, as we play in a 3-4-3, if Benito plays in the centre-left, that’s fine because he’s slow. But if you put him as the engine running up and down the flank, he’s not capable of doing that well. So why was he chosen when we play in 3-4-3 or 5-3-2?
We had intended to bring in Romain Perraud from Nice, who had been the best left back / wing back in Ligue 2 last season on loan to Paris FC. And we could have had him for €2m. And he’s only 23. Lots of clubs were interested in him but he was up for coming to Bordeaux – I spoke to his agents Nicolas Dieuze, Stephane Canard and Stephane Trevisan, they were all for it and we’d already put them in touch in March with Ulrich Ramé (technical director). But Ramé no longer has any say and Macia wasn’t interested in him.
You mentioned 3-4-3 and 5-3-2. Are you told in advance what formation the club will be playing, in terms of the players you should be looking out for?
Yes, Sousa told us in March how he wanted to play, so that we would do our scouting based on that. That’s why we brought in little [Raoul] Bellanova from Milan, who has a real engine, is very quick and can cross the ball. And Romain Perraud would have been the perfect counterpart on the other flank. And you’ll see – it was a no-brainer – Perraud cost Brest €2m, his salary is around €35,000. And this coming season I think he’s going to explode and the English clubs will jump on him because there aren’t many top left backs out there.
Celtic were already after him this summer too. But had Bordeaux bought him for €2m this summer, we could have sold him next summer for €12-15m to England and made a great profit. That’s why I don’t understand it. I mean who are we going to sell Benito to?! He’s 31! (He’s actually 27) They’re all joining a retirement home! Koscielny, Benito, Mexer! And Kwarteng wasn’t even a starter at Nantes – he didn’t even play every match. But we sign him!
On Twitter you’re very hard with Macia and Varela but I get the impression that you do rate Sousa?
Yes. I think he is suffering right now too. He wasn’t expecting such poor recruitment. Watch the interview he gave at the start of July – he said that there’d be lots of new players arriving for pre-season. Yet we’re about to start the new season and he doesn’t have his new players. Just Koscielny. And he’s lost Koundé! So there’s been no progression. Just stagnation. Losing Koundé and gaining Koscielny is still just post-for-post. Nothing has been added to the team. While as things stand we have no midfield – we have no ball-winner, no playmaker, no box-to-box. They’re all important! We have no left-back. Because Poundjé should have been let go – you need an engine who can cover the whole flank. And that’s not Benito either. So for me it’s been rubbish.
Do you think there’s a chance that Sousa will think he’s been sold a dud and quit?
I can tell you that Koscielny’s arrival calmed things down a lot. I think things were going extremely badly before that. But Koscielny’s signing is “the tree that hides the forest.”
Speaking of unhappy coaches, I’m a Brighton fan and we had Gustavo Poyet as coach. He got us promotion and what he did on the pitch was great – but he was very difficult off the pitch and, although in the end he was fired, he did everything he could to make that happen…
Yes – it was exactly the same at Bordeaux! Exactly the same! And it’s a pity because on the pitch he is a very good coach. And Sousa too – he’s a very good coach. But I think that he was lied to in terms of the recruitment that was to take place – that he was led to expect something different.
The recruitment is simply bizarre. Which is why I don’t respect Macia or Varela at all. Everyone lauds Macia – but he hasn’t done anything anywhere. If you follow his career he hasn’t done anything special anywhere. At Betis he was fired. At Leicester, with Puel, he didn’t use him. We should have known. So for me, there was no need to bring Macia in. Ulrich Ramé was great. He’d only been there two years as sporting director. He completed his studies at Limoges so he prepared well, he brought in the right people – he brought me in from Montpellier – he brought in scouts who had great contacts – he was building a really good thing. But he was shot down and now he’s not doing anything at Bordeaux, he has no say. It’s a real shame.
He was working on bringing in Perraud. Also [Hicham] Boudaoui – the Algeria international. He’s a brilliant talent, only 20. He’s another whom we spotted but who isn’t coming. And he would not have cost anything. He would have come to France for the season, Bordeaux would only have paid his salary – I think it was around €15,000-€20,000 – he’d stay for one year and if Bordeaux sold him on, his parent club Paradou would receive 70% and Bordeaux 30%. But Bordeaux would have paid no transfer fee. And he’s an Algerian international! So I really don’t understand these things. We weren’t taking any risks and everyone says he’s an excellent footballer. He played with [Youcef] Atal whom I know well, and he also said that he was great. Watch Algeria vs Tanzania from the AFCON and tell me what you think of Boudaoui – it’s like watching Tigana at his best!
And we need midfielders. So I don’t understand the reasoning at all. But as I’ve just been forced out, I don’t want people to say that I’m just saying stuff because I’m bitter. So I’m going to wait until August is over. Then in September I’ll take stock.
One more quick question on Bordeaux’s mercato and a rumour that came up in England – there was a story that Liverpool were interested in François Kamano? Is there any truth to that?
No – no, not at all! No that’s just a rumour. I can’t see how Liverpool would have any need for Kamano. What Klopp has done for Liverpool is exceptional and he has everything he needs.
In terms of your career, past and future – how did you come to be a scout?
The path is almost always the same for everyone – we’re all ex-players. We’re still interested in football, we don’t want to give it up, and we start working with clubs, with contacts, you start enjoying it more and more – I’m passionate about it – I watch 250 matches a year!
Is it a lonely life? Or is there a kind of scouts’ union?
No, we all know each other, we see each other at matches, we chat, we go for a bite to eat together, we get on, we compare notes. We generally all go way back together from when we played and are now doing this together. So I know that now I’ve lost my job at Bordeaux, all the scouts are saying don’t worry Laurent, we’ll help you find something, we’ll look out for you.
So it isn’t a case of rivalry between you?
No, no rivalry. Everyone fights for their club, but outside of that, we’re people, we get on, we appreciate each other’s abilities, each other’s work – because you know it’s a really tough job, being a scout. I was doing 100,000 km a year, watching 250 matches! At all levels. I did the U19s. I did reserve matches. I did National, Ligue 2 and Ligue 1.
And are you all employed by clubs or are there freelance scouts who sell their work to clubs?
Well what’s funny, and what made me smile, is that at Bordeaux we were all employees, we worked for Bordeaux. And now practically all of Bordeaux’s scouts are independent – are not Bordeaux employees. They don’t even live in France, they don’t pay their taxes in France – they’re not in France. So they’re not club employees. And I couldn’t tell you who they work for. I can’t tell you what company they work for. I know they watch matches for Bordeaux, but I don’t know who they invoice. Do they invoice Bordeaux or another company? Is it GACP [the company that now owns Bordeaux]? Another company?
So you are arguing that they are not as invested in Bordeaux as you were as an employee?
Exactly – you have to wonder. That doesn’t mean they’re not competent – I’m sure they are. But it’s all about saving money.
I mean Varela – is he part of Bordeaux’s formal structure or not? I don’t think he is part of Bordeaux. And Macia – is he on the Bordeaux pay-roll? I’m not convinced. Yet they’re at Le Haillan [Bordeaux HQ] every day. But it should be that if you work in France you should pay… Anyway, I have my doubts about all of it. But maybe that’s just modern football – maybe that’s just how it is now.
There’s a similar situation in England too. I know lots of Arsenal and Manchester United fans who have had enough of their foreign owners who won’t invest in the team.
But this is what Bordeaux is suffering right now. We had Mr Tavernost who owned the club for 18 years and ran it like the father to a family – he was an excellent president. Everything that he did for Bordeaux was great. But now it’s another era – an era of business, of money. There’s no longer any human values. Maybe tomorrow there’ll no longer be any scouts and it will just be computer statistics. Which doesn’t work, because you need to see players’ play without the ball.
And also their behaviour away from the pitch – we get information on whether they are living clean (nutritionally and otherwise), how they are at training – do they arrive on time? If training starts at 9.30 do they arrive at 9.15? Do they arrive at 8.00 to give them time to prepare themselves like a professional? Do they stay behind after training to keep working on things? All this tells us lots about the player. And there’s no computer that can do all that.
So while not obvious right now, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise to leave such an atmosphere at Bordeaux?
Yes because – well I’ll tell you why I’m bitter. It’s not the fact that they told me they no longer require my services; that happens to everyone. I just would have preferred for them to be honest and to have told me in May. If they’d told me then that they didn’t want me for this coming season, I would have been able to start looking for another club. But don’t tell me at the end of July, a week before the end of my contract! And when they had told me that they were going to extend my contract too! But they told me after I’d come back from 17 days at the AFCON. So they basically squeezed all the juice out of me that they could till the very end.
It actually happened like this – I returned from the AFCON and they told me “we’re cutting your salary by €1,500.” I said “but that’s loads.” They said “well it’s either that or we won’t sign your new contract.” That was their way of saying get lost.
And it wasn’t just me. Also Paul Marchioni who has gone. Thierry Bonal has gone too. Only Eric Guérit is left.
It’s sad. But mainly because of the way it was done. I realise that in football things are not forever. If I’d been told in May that Macia was arriving with his team and that I wasn’t needed, I’d have understood. But not at the end of July.
Are you confident of being able to find another job?
Yes, and I have already refused two offers from clubs in Russia. I am also in talks with a club in Spain but it’s early stages right now. But it’s a pity because I really liked Bordeaux. I joined Bordeaux because I liked them. And because I had entire confidence in Ulrich Ramé. He’s a very honest man with strong links to Bordeaux. But that’s life.
Were you a fan of Bordeaux already or was it just a job?
No, I always liked Bordeaux, it was a club that I held in my heart. It’s a club with a good image, which is clean – you don’t hear about dodgy dealings. So when Ulrich Ramé offered me the opportunity to join Bordeaux I jumped at the chance because I had entire confidence in Mr Tavernost at that time, and the president Martin and Ulrich Ramé – because they are very honest people. So I was happy and very proud to join Bordeaux.
All I’m doing is looking at what people have done elsewhere. And when I see what Varela and Macia have done elsewhere – I fear for Bordeaux. Because Mr Varela has already been involved in a few stories. You should do a little investigating.
When the Americans arrived, I really thought that Mr DaGrosa [co-founder of GACP] was a good man. Maybe he doesn’t know all that is happening. Like the President Longuépée – he is also a very honest man. But he is there to manage the business, the marketing side of the club – not the sporting side.
And go search for the official position of Varela. If you can find the list of those on Bordeaux’s pay-roll you’ll be very surprised. Look for Varela, look for Macia, look for Souleymane Cissé – who is the technical director of the youth academy. Look for them on the Bordeaux pay-roll. He’s there every day and he lives in Bordeaux. So he should be on the Bordeaux pay-roll. These are all unclear issues that need investigating. Maybe it’s all above board. But I’m not at all convinced.
Thanks very much for your time and I hope you find a new club soon.
I hope so too. And I also hope with all my heart that Bordeaux are successful. The common interest is always more important than personal interest. Putting aside the deontological issues with Varela and Macia, Bordeaux are a big club, they have a good president in Longuépée, they have Ulrich Ramé, they have lots of good people and I was really very attached to the club. And it really hurt me to leave the club.