Squawka Football, the website dedicated to football stats and analysis has placed Chelsea Sporting Director Michael Emenalo in the Top 10 of the profession in Europe right now. Others on the list include Emilio Butragueno at Real Madrid, Guiseppe Marotta at Juventus, Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez of Roma who made his name at Sevilla.
Football managers are no longer all-powerful patriarchs who demand total authority over the inner-workings of a football club – we’re in the era of the sporting directors.
It is hard enough to stay focused on coaching a team to win matches and trophies. Due to the amount of money that now flows through the sport, the truly global competition for finding and signing talent, and the sheer scale of other operations taken on by various other departments to keep a modern team going behind the scenes, the traditional gaffer will soon be obsolete at the highest level.
Never again will managers be able to dominate every aspect of a football club as past greats such as Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Don Revie and Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson once did. Arsene Wenger will be the last of their kind. The all-encompassing briefs that these managers once presided over are now being broken up and divided between head coaches in the dugout and directors working above or alongside them.
With professionalism came greater sophistication and more specialists on the football pitch. Now the same is happening with the coaching staff and the management team. Even the likes of Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho find their roles limited compared to their predecessors.
Yet while the names of Europe’s most elite coaches may be household names, the identities of the professionals that have been placed in charge of other agendas besides the training and preparation of the first team largely remain a mystery.
Squawka have selected 10 of the top-performing directors of football (also known as sporting directors or technical directors), tasked with a range of responsibilities from setting forth a philosophy for their coaches to follow, and overseeing scouting, recruitment and youth development, to haggling over transfer deals.
Current club: Chelsea
Previous club(s): N/A
A controversial figure whose work behind the scenes at Chelsea has raised suspicions among fans over his accountability and impact, negative as well as positive, on the reigns of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge, especially.
Yet viewed in the proper context, the Nigerian’s work has been incredibly impressive. He has been responsible for getting the most out of the loan system for the Blues, moving young players in and out of clubs all around Europe to ensure they are getting experience playing at a good standard.
He also has a hand in scouting and recruitment, and while Mourinho especially may have failed to see the worth in players such as Juan Cuadrado, who Emenalo brought to the club, the Colombian’s exploits in Italy with Juventus suggest the director, rather than the manager, might sometimes be onto something.
A version of this article appeared in Squawka.com