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How are football recruitment departments coping with COVID-19?

Since the start of quarantine and the cessation of football competitions around the world, recruitment teams have been deprived of their raw material: matches. Those who had planned their summer market are one step ahead of the rest of the pack during this season, turned upside down, by the coronavirus epidemic.

The role of a recruitment team is to watch matches to define a list of targets for the following transfer windows. For several weeks, there have been no more matches due to the coronavirus epidemic and the interruption of competitions.

Does “scouting” also find itself at a standstill? No, the opposite is true, according to a scout at a top European club speaking to RMC“It’s crazy to say, but we are working more than before. Except that we don’t make any more trips. We spend our lives on WyScout.”

This is a viewed shared by Luis de Sousa, ESTAC Troyes Sporting Director, who works with two other people: “I have the impression that it is taking a lot longer to refine our analysis, to have discussions between us. And so we are working more at the moment.”

WyScout, the football video platform used by the majority of clubs, has become the benchmark for recruiters and Sporting Directors in recent weeks. It must be admitted that other software is also used by clubs (InStat, internal software, etc.).

Although nothing replaces live scouting in the field, the teams have adapted. The most renowned in the space have already planned their recruitment, with OGC Nice Sporting Director Julien Fournier indicating: “This is our chance. The majority of our scouting is done from September to February. This is the bulk of the work. Now, we enter more into the phase where we whittle it down to three or four names per position.”

The clubs that had largely planned their market before the pandemic hit have very clear ideas on the players they intend to recruit, even without being able to deepen existing reports further.

This is the situation at Lille, which was due to enter its last observation round by geographic area. Luis Campos and his team of seven people had to cancel this final set of trips to proceed to the minimising of their lists. LOSC are also advancing on their market opportunities, such as that of 18-year-old Marseille winger Isaac Lihadji, who is ever-increasingly likely to join Les Dogues.

At Reims, Mathieu Lacour (General Director) and Pol-Edouard Caillot (Head of Recruitment) are already entering into negotiations with targets, with Lacour adding:

“We are already entering into discussions with our targets. We like to go to restaurants with them, getting to know them. With this health crisis, this will have to happen on video. Which we are already planned to do with a player next week. We are not waiting around.”

Nice Sporting Director Julien Fournier adds: “We like spending time with the players, Human contact will be lacking, but as with scouting, we will adapt with video.”

With Mathieu Lacour again stating: “We look a lot at social media networks at this club. Any interviews also carried out by the player give us a sense of his personality.”

Other clubs are more impacted by the absence of matches and competitions. This is the case for a club at the bottom of Ligue 1, who built their first (ever?) recruitment team after the January transfer window:

“We were able to work fifteen days in the field. But this period also allows us to have more time to deepen our reports, even if it is with video. We are falling behind on the decision-making. Not on scouting.”

Clubs in these sorts of positions are more tempted to remain on safer footing and take less risky approaches to the transfer market:

“We are going look less at players who need discovering so to speak, and more into players we already know. The smaller clubs that will do the best in this situation will be those who manage to make sales early on in the market.”

Other clubs will focus more on their youth academy – Troyes Sporting Director Luis de Sousa adds:

“We will be tempted to trust our young players more. We have a lot of meetings on this subject with our youth academy director. Everyone participates, especially at the start of the transfer window, which will then dictate the tempo for the following weeks.”

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