Scouting: The sub-rosa art in Football
Sometimes, they silently observe their targets from a distance and sometimes probe them face to face. They follow the target’s each and every move and make a note of his weaknesses and strengths. Providing intel about the most prolific and potentially strong targets to their employers is a part of their daily routine. Fortunately, the ones they are after are not terrorists but the most talented and finest players in the world. For me, they are the secret service in the world of football. These people are termed football scouts, a term which every gamer playing Football Manager or the Manager Mode in FIFA would be aware of.
Keeping aside the funny part, the job they do is just as serious.
Bringing the best talent to the topmost level is a massive responsibility burdened on equally accountable shoulders. It’s a knack that only a few master. They guide raw talent on the path to glory, and are any manager’s most vital secret weapon, which rarely fails. When fired precisely, they can help any ordinary club to stardom, and conversely, if fired falsely, can cause tremendous losses to any top club. No doubt it is a pretty sharp double edged sword with which no ordinary person can play with.
It takes lots of years of experience as well as observational skills to hunt down the right talent as required by the club.
In the late 90s, a renowned scout Carles Rexach brought a wonder boy, aged 12, from Argentina to La Masia in Barcelona. Presently, aged 25, the boy has won many laurels, including the coveted FIFA World Player of the Year Award for a record 4 times. No need to mention the name. The point here is, before all that happened, Carles had taught football at his academy, worked as an assistant coach and manager for around 15 years. This speaks volumes about his understanding of the game. This helped him to get in a position where he could discover the scintillating talent of Messi, which turned out to be one of the most rewarding signings of all time for Barcelona.
There are many such examples where the caliber of the scout has helped teams scale heights. One of the most striking examples of today would be Borussia Dortmund. The potential of young talent has propelled Dortmund’s rise in German and European football.
Thanks to the efforts put in by scouts, youth academies all over the world are bursting with promising players working hard to prove their worth on the training ground. This encouragement and opportunities provided to the young peers is also one of the key factors for the popularity of the game. The organized structure of the leagues worldwide, along with different tier competitions, gives a pre-defined and gradual approach towards the game.
From a broader perspective, bringing any talent to the club is just as difficult as finding your right partner. Both the entities look for desirable features to be present in each other. Before shortlisting any player, the scout definitely asks the following questions to himself, the player and the Club.
- Depending on the style of play of the team, does the player fit well or can adapt to it?
- Does he possess the right psychological and physical traits to carry forward the team mentality? These characteristics assist in the bonding between the club and the player.
Finally, if both are happy, the partnership flourishes and works marvels for both of them as well as the game.
To sum it up, I would like to list out some of the desirable attributes that scouts are seeking while looking for different positions.
Goalkeepers: Reflexes, one-on-one ability, command of the penalty area and aerial intelligence.
Center-backs: Heading and tackling ability, bravery in attempting challenges, concentration.
Full-backs: Pace, stamina, anticipation, tackling and marking abilities and work rate.
Central midfielders: Stamina, passing ability, team responsibility, positioning and marking abilities.
Forwards: Finishing ability, composure, heading ability, pace and off-the-ball intelligence.
Remember, the next time anybody comes scouting, keep in mind the skills they look for and position you are playing in. Most importantly, perform wholeheartedly and be original. Who knows, you could be on their short-list in the blink of an eye. Finally, never forget they have eyes on you all the time.
So, whenever you see any young player making news in the world of sports, never forget the effort of masters behind the scenes that helped the lad grow.