Last Wednesday, Victor Orta did an hour-long interview with La Media Inglesa in Spain. Joe Brennan has translated the interview and we will be releasing it in four parts here.
In Part IV, Orta talks about how transfers play themselves out, how Brexit has changed the market and Archie Gray as a future star.
Q: I wanted to ask about the process of a transfer. There are a million factors, price, manager, data, What’s the process? Who starts it? At what point do other people get involved?
It comes from an informative point of view from the sporting director team. That’s where it comes from. Then there’s the executive side. What I try to do is involve internally. We’ll talk about externally later on, everyone in the club.
I try to get that general management, with Angus Kinnear as the representation of the board and owner, obviously, the manager representing that side, sport management and sporting director, all have the opportunity to say no to the transfer. If one of those elements say no then the player doesn’t come.
Why? So that when the players comes in the door, we are all aligned in the decision; they have all had their chance to say no which is, for me, very decisive. That’s the internal side, because one of the things I see in modern football that doesn’t work — the same way I said there are lots of ways to achieve success, but there are a lot of ways to analyse how things don’t work — is when a manager brings in a player that he knows, that is his friend. Then the owner gets jealous and calls his agent friend to bring in one of his players; the sporting director then does the same with one of his players, then you have a Frankenstein squad. This doesn’t work, I’ve analysed this before. The way we do it, whether or works or not, we know who to blame.
That’s internally. Now, externally, the thing that is a lot easier to do today is get to the real agent of the player; before it was quite a lot more complicated. There weren’t any social media sites, there weren’t any databases, like Transfermarkt, which gets a lot of things wrong, there’s about a 90% reliability rate, and for me as a professional. There’s a 10% error rate and people live from it. It’s irrelevant.
How the transfer market has changed thanks to Transfermarkt in the sense that the information gets to people in a moment. And now unfortunately we have these things. Also, I’ve been here for 17 years and I have here grey hairs [points to chin], now you call a guy to find out if he is with the player and he says no, there’s social media and things like that that show if he’s with him or not.
When we talk about the world of agents, I’m not a sporting director that is always critical of them. There are very good ones, good ones and bad ones, and really bad ones, just like Youtubers, like cameras, like newspapers, like lawyers, like everything! I’m not one of those guys who says this guy is a leech, sucking money out of everyone. No, no, they are doing their job and developing.
In any walk of life, there are intermediaries in publicity, in the agency world, in public works, it’s a global position. I’m not very critical of agents, there are some I like working with more and some that I like working with less. Sometimes I see a player is represented by someone and I say oh, look what we’ve got here, well there you go, I’ve got to have the humility to pick up the phone, call them and continue with my job.
Now you’ve got a process in which four teams are involved, when you have the opportunity you can do a transparent process, talk to the player to convince them and try to convince all parties to reach an agreement on the economic side and everything else. You have to get all 4 sides to agree: the selling club, the buying club, the player (along with the people around him) and the agent. When all four sides agree you can do the deal. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
I’m always very transparent and clear, and this clarity is what helps me gain time. When you don’t see that transparency and clarity in the other sides of the deal [smacks hands together], move onto the next one. That really helps me gain time.
One thing I’m very proud of is at Leeds is that it’s a club that does not get involved in internal politics. We are a very tight-knit club, Angus and I work well with Marcelo and then the board and owner all come together, it’s all done nice and quickly. You don’t have to go through a long process, of course, I’ll sit down with someone from the 49ers or Andrea and explain things, why we chose this player, how we got to this name, what position we are going to improve, the budgets, what we can do. Of course we do that, but Leeds is a club that gives you the freedom, both to fail and succeed. That makes the turnaround quick.
Q: You talked about the role of agents in the process of transfers, but have you ever had a case in which the agent has become so relevant to the deal that you’ve decided not to go ahead with it?
Ha! There are agents that rule you out! Because they don’t think you’re good for their player. And there are agents that are very executive, that, thanks to their intervention, they close deals. For me the main thing that’s changed is that agents used to be very involved from a technical point of view; the agent influenced. I remember now, [inaudible name] would get to his office with 60 videos, highlights of everybody. I remember some from Mago [Rubén] Capria, absolutely extraordinary. The information that the people had was powerful, you could trust them.
One of the great innovators of Spanish football was and is Ramón Martínez, he still works for Real Madrid. In the 80s, he was at Valladolid looking at South America and was the first person to try and innovate the sport director role in Spain. And then, the information of the people was absolutely decisive; now they are not decisive in that. Now they are decisive in being good or bad people at an executive level.
This is what is a good agent now: you say to them “I want this player” — this happens to me. However, now there are big companies — they say “I’m not going to Leeds, you can’t afford him” — extraordinary! They don’t waste your time! Hey, I want this player. OK, he could go here, he could go there, etc. Let me start the process — that’s being a good decision maker; those who have the intention of seeing the deal go through. It’s not about having any technical influence. Clubs don’t get sent a 4-minute highlight video and say that we want him. No. It’s not the 1980/90s anymore. Technically, a club influences if the agent provides you with players. “Do you want him? He’s within your range. I think we can do this.”
Q: Last question from me, talking about Brexit. Your job has changed a lot, the players you can sign now and the dynamics of it all. Can you talk about it?
I know we have to make new rules now, they have involved us in that process, the technical people had to make new rules and there had to be a new line drawn. And the line is drawn with reference to the strongest leagues. Where they’ve really hurt us is with the mid-ranking clubs [in the Premier League] for us to discover hidden talent.
We’re lucky that we’ve been the first club that has got through the first exception panel because with all under 20 players everyone can go to the exception panel and we won with Kristoffer Klaesson, Leeds’ second-choice goalkeeper, because he didn’t have enough points. What they’ve done for over 20s, which I think is really unfair, is that they have valued the league over the value of the young player.
I’m going to give you a headline: Haaland, with the current rules, wouldn’t have been able to go from Molde to the Premier League. That means that the strength of the league is everything. If you’ve had one game on the bench in a strong league it means more than if you’ve played 1,500 minutes in the Norweigan league as a starter. Or in the Danish league, which is a lower level. And if you are on the bench once for a team in the Champions League, you immediately have the points. Only being on the bench once. And the kid who has played 2,000 minutes in Denmark doesn’t have the points. Yes, you can go to the exception panel, to defend your case but then there’s the tension of having to rely on 3 people who have woken up that day and are going to decide on all of this.
By the way, my Premier League coordinator told me yesterday that of the 4 cases that have gone to the panel, 3 of them have been granted the transfer. It will be interesting to find out who the 4th player was so we can see more or less where the cut-off point lies. I want to see who it is to inform myself and apply the knowledge. What do I feel that they have done? That we can only sign known names, only sign players from national teams or in the top 7 leagues, the ones that are already there.
It’s complicated. We can’t even sign players in the Spanish second division now. Maybe a kid who has a great season who’s 24 and us, with our knowledge of the league, have the bravery to say “let’s go for him and bring him to the Premier League” — well now they’re not going to give us the points. And since he’s 24 they won’t allow it to go to an exceptions panel.
It’s unfair. The teams with big resources haven’t had anything change in terms of their market but for us, who maybe want to be a bit more innovative, going for players from the German or Spanish second divisions, to give two examples, can’t do that anymore because of the points. So our market is reduced to known players in which we’re more likely to lose out, as the player will choose a European team, etc.
It’s unfair but we just have to try to reinvent ourselves and try to be creative like we always have tried to be with our sporting model, not get frustrated and go for another model where we can reinvent ourselves.
Q: Last question, which player in the Premier League do you consider undervalued?
Look, I’ll answer you but I’m going to give you a different answer. I want to be the first person on La Media Inglesa since in 5 years' time you’ll be talking about this guy non-stop and I want to be the first and because I already had the answer prepared yesterday.
I want to say the name of Archie Gray, our youth team player. He is 16, grandson of Eddie Gray, son of Andy Gray and I want to say the name of Archie Gray on La Media Inglesa. You can find a nice moment of what he did the other day in the Papa John’s Trophy on Wyscout, he gave a lovely pass to Amari Miller in our 4–1 defeat to Tranmere Rovers.
Hopefully, nobody takes him away from us for God’s sake. Nobody is going to do that, he has [Leeds] in his blood. So that’s why I want to say the name of Archie Gray on here because every time he takes a step forward you’ll see him. He’s one of those players you see every, I don’t know. I remember Kun Agüero and saying “what is this?” It’s something that happens once in a long time, so I wanted to mention Archie Gray.
Q: I’m just going to do one more now you’ve mentioned this: how often do you see a player for the first time and see one minute, one touch or one detail and say this guy is going to be amazing?
That’s a bit like an 80s scout. I watch 20 minutes and I’m off. I’m going to name a friend of mine, famous ex-Real Madrid chief scout Paco de Gracia who after 20 minutes used to say “we can go now, let’s get out of here, there’s nothing to see here”.
It’s actually happened only a few times, in that South America under 20s tournament Kun [Agüero] scored 10 or 12 goals or something like that, you could see he was different. I saw Ángel Correa in under 15s in San Lorenzo and it impacted me. I saw Douglas Costa when he was 15 in a Copinha São Paolo and I said “who’s this guy?” It’s happened only a few times. But yeah, Archie gives me the same feeling. Archie the other day against Tranmere Rovers gave me that feeling.
Feel free to share parts of this interview but please make sure you give credit to the translator, Joe Brennan. You can follow Joe Brennan on Twitter @j4brennan.
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