Luis Campos at PSG, Javier Ribalta at OM... What's behind the titles of adviser or director of football?

Luis Campos at PSG, Javier Ribalta at OM… What’s behind the titles of adviser or director of football?

Sign of the times, new titles have recently appeared in the organization charts of Ligue 1 clubs: football adviser and director of football. Under these extremely vague names were thus recruited Luis Campos, on June 10 by PSG, and Javier Ribalta, whose arrival was formalized on Saturday June 18 by OM. “First fuses”, “club architect”, crutch for the president? What is the exact role of these new directors?

From the outset, Eric Roy dispels the doubt: behind these ranks, we find the function of sports director, generally better known to the general public. “In football as elsewhere, there are fashion effects”, announces the franceinfo consultant: sport. “The real difference between all these designations is the signed contract and the missions it contains”. In short, the names change, the role remains. And the latter is essential.

“If all these stars came to Paris, it’s not thanks to the president’s address book. People shouldn’t forget that.” Patrick Vernet, former sports director of AC Ajaccio, defends the brotherhood and in this case Leonardo, pushed out by PSG and replaced by Luis Campos. The latter, who therefore takes the functions left vacant by the Brazilian, will be under enormous pressure in the capital. Vernet knows this only too well. “The big disadvantage of this job is that we are dependent, even more than the others, on the results of the team”. And to continue: “The sporting director is the first fuse of a club.”

A man in the shadows cast out as soon as the team is not going well, the sporting director remains an essential cog in the destiny of a club. On paper, his functions are clearly defined: he must in particular take care of recruitment, manage contracts, negotiate transfers, and, more generally, think about club policy. In other words, he serves as a link between his management, the coach and the players. But, from theory to practice, there is sometimes a chasm. There are often struggles for influence, each wants to encroach on the prerogatives of the other”notes Eric Roy, who performed these functions in Nice (from 2009 to 2010 then from 2011 to 2012) then in Lens (from 2017 to 2019).

The Franceinfo consultant: sport wants to be more explicit in highlighting a role that is not always clear to the general public. And for good reason : “The functions of a director, whether sporting or football, or a football adviser, vary widely depending on the structure of the club. In larger ones, his role is more akin to that of a manager whose mission is to build a workforce. For that, he does not necessarily go to see all the matches. He has a recruitment unit and scouts under his command.”

This will therefore be one of the missions of Luis Campos and Javier Ribalta, but the specifications obviously do not stop there. Eric Roy continues: “The director/advisor can also help the coach, especially to solve conflicts between players and ego problems. When there are only eleven incumbents on the field, you can imagine that the director has work to keep the replacements mobilized. He therefore sometimes also has a role as a psychologist.. And Roy to conclude: “The director of football is the architect of the club”. The fact remains that, sometimes, the plans fail and the sites turn out to be fiascos.

“The problems are often linked to recruitment, with the coach often accusing the football adviser of not having given him the players he wanted“, observes Eric Roy. Hence the desire of some directors to exceed their functions. Bruno Carotti, in post in Montpellier for more than ten years, refutes this practice: Some directors require full powers but this is not necessarily a good thing. There’s already so much to do when you’re still on duty!”

And the ex-midfielder to list: “There, the championship is barely over when we already have to prepare for next season’s, start recruiting, change certain infrastructures, etc. In short, it’s a very interesting position because we stay close to the field and to our passion. , but it is extremely time-consuming”.

Patrick Vernet, he retains other disadvantages to this profession. You have to know how to manage the situations of players who sometimes have 2, or 3, agents. It’s hellish to see through all this paperwork”, he laments. Suffice to say that Luis Campos or Javier Ribalta, armed with a battalion of lawyers, will not have this kind of concern. As we can see, the difference in meaning of the definition of director, whether at PSG, OM or ACA, is obvious at all levels. “In the Ajaccio club, it’s like a small village. Everyone gives their opinion. There are no well-defined prerogatives”laughs Patrick Vernet.

Thomas Tuchel, then PSG coach, and Leonardo, his ex-sporting director, during the Coupe de la Ligue final on July 30, 2020.   (FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

However, if there is one point on which all directors or advisers agree, regardless of the size of their club, it is the importance of the relationship between the director and his coach. “A good osmosis between the two is the absolute guarantee of the good life of a group”, hammers Vernet.

The frictions between these two parties, however, are legion and generally make the headlines of the press. If Bayern Munich is the undisputed champion in this category, the clashes between Jorge Valdano and José Mourinho in the 2010s have gone down in history on the Real Madrid side. And just look at L1 recently to see that tensions are frequent (Garcia-Juninho at OL or Leonardo-Tuchel in Paris, for example).

Presidents also choose these men among their relatives to assert their authority and not be betrayed…

Eric Roy

France info: sports

On the other hand, when the two clans unite, it is often for the best. Patrick Vernet, close to Christophe Galtier, says: “When he arrived in Lille, Christophe met Luis Campos and he told me that it had helped him gain perspective and focus on the essentials. In Saint-Etienne, Galtier had dispersed, he tried to do everything but it was not possible. The meeting with Campos transformed him”.

If they assist their coaches by relieving them of tasks that are not theirs, sports directors also provide this link with their managers. “LClub owners are increasingly made up of investment funds. Their presidents don’t really know football and they need directors or football advisers.”notes Eric Roy.

The latter recalls another key point in the appointment of an adviser or director of football: “We must not forget that a club is an organ of power. Presidents also choose these men among their relatives to establish their authority and not be betrayed…”

Roy, who was sporting director at Watford in the Premier League between 2019 and 2020, is also well placed to discuss the differences in role between the two championships: “In England, the coach is all-powerful. We call him the manager and he has almost all the decision-making power. The director, sports or football, has much less of a place than in France”.

Also close to Frédéric Massara, sporting director of AC Milan, Eric Roy affirms on the contrary that this position is placed on a pedestal in Italy: “Over there, it is often said that the coach is a passing man and that the director is a man of the club”. In which movement will Luis Campos and Javier Ribalta be located?

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