Interview with our Spanish scout in El País. Was from a few weeks ago but ideas still relevant now. Sorry if this is in the wrong section, but I didn't know where else to put it.
CAYETANO ROS - Valencia
Francis Cagigao (London, 1969) doesn't want medals despite being a very reputable talent scout. "I don't take the decisions, merely suggest them". The key, he says, is the boss, Arsène Wenger, who launches them into the mainstream from the football school of Arsenal.
What were you like as a player?
Mediocre. I'm the son of Galician parents that emigrated to London. I was a youth teamer at Arsenal and then I was at Barça B, Racing, Wimbledon, Southampton, Ferrol, Yeclano and in Lemos as a player and later as a coach. I've spent 12 years at Arsenal.
How did you come to be a scout?
By accident. I was getting my qualifications as a coach when Arsenal spoke to me with the aim of initiating a global system of training and recruitment of players. I said yes to them but only for part time because I wanted to strengthen myself from the bottom as a trainer in 3rd division and in the fútbol base[sides below the reserve team, Arsenal Under 18 for example]
The first player that you recommended
Lauren. I never like to say that I discovered someone because that is down to the youth coaches and the parents. The technical staff are there to gather information: The one who takes the decisions is the manager or the chief scout Steve Rowley.
How many countries to you monitor?
4 or 5 + tournaments but throughout the season, you find yourself going to about 25 countries. Few weeks ago, I was in Greece and Turkey
Are there talents in Greece?
In the countries with a big football culture, like Brazil, there are more possibilities. There they play on the street, although that is going to be dry up. Pitches for football schools are going to be reduced, which is harmful. The coach has found unknown footballers like Kolo Touré. Players from Ivory Coast from Asec Mimosas, a club very well known now but before not so. The key is to have a extensive network and to work hard.
How many scouts do you have at Arsenal?
Rowley is the one one based in the London office. And then 8 in the field and 15 part-time. In UK, we cover all the youth categories. In Spain, only myself. If we have too many, you could have an excess of information. Arsène is the head above all of us. When the club signs a young player, its not to sell him but to play in the first team.
The player who made the most impact when you first saw him
Cesc. It was in Lloret de Mar in the Torneo Mediterráneo Internacional. He played 10 minutes and got injured. I had little time to appreciate him.
Have you been suprised by his maturity?
Very much so. From 16 years old, when he debuted with the first team to today, he has come on rapidly. And as he's different to others, he has met the challenge. Wenger was very brave to put him in at 16 years. He knew that he was not ready but that in the future, he would show his class.
Why does he do it?
Because he has a very pure feeling about football. Many have said that we have not won anything in the last few years but they have to look at what we have spent, how healthy the club is and the possibilities for the future.
Could Wenger do the same thing at another club?.
Of course. One thing[to point out] is whether the board of other clubs, with distinct cultures, leave him to it. Wenger has spent 13 years at the club. Alex Ferguson, 22 at Manchester United, as had Guy Roux in France before. They end up being insitutions. In time like these with the impatience there is in life, its impossible to go back a step. Now you must win without having a base. Ferguson went 4 years without winning a title[now look at him]
The first thing that catches your attention[when scouting a player]
His intelligence. There is a very thin line between intelligence and intuition. You can't let it mislead you. Intelligence is to be a step ahead of each play, to know what surrounds you and at what point of the match you are at. The intuition is what you have to improvise or act out without thinking previously. The ideal thing is a lot of inteligence and a little intuition. Its very pleasant to see one who is neither the quickest or the most technical nor the most powerful but who can still be the best. Zidane was so inteligent and so intuitive that he became the most effective
Was Reyes a failure?
His performance level was very high with us; 10 goals and 15 assists on average. Once he left, his level dropped.
After snatching Cesc and Fran Mérida from them, what is your relationship with Barça like?
There have been some tension but the boards have met and come to agreements. The final stage of development is the most important one, one they recieve with us whilst the other [kid] is being processed [i.e fast track system at Arsenal compared to other sides]. The youngsters know who will trust in them. The first team has kids of 21 of a high quality. I don't see a better left back then Clichy. Diaby, Denilson, Vela and.... Ramsey, signed from Cardiff at 16, they have 10 years of football in front of them.
But the model is being questioned in England
The Press question everything. The problem of it is that it brings doubts within the boardroom and amongst fans and increases the pressure. We need to have people very strong inside[the club]. Arsenal can go some years without winning anything because there is a plan,[that is] not to navigate without direction. Its a team that has never been out of the Champions League[position]
And the signing of Arshavin?
Its a bet of the coach, who reckoned that the team was lacking maturity.
How have Arsenal moved from boring Arsenal to this team?
For 18 years, all I heard from the stands was1-0 to the Arsenal. When I was a kid at the club, the trainer was George Graham who created a winning team but one with a primitive model. The expenditure was inferior to others too[as is the case now] but with a very tough team of Seaman, Dixon, Adams.... Now, its a very open football, dynamic and very fluid
You read Fiebre en la gradas [Fever Pitch]?
Yes, My name appears in the Cup winning youth team of that year and I have seen the film too. It captures the essence of the club and the anguish of the fan with a touch of British humour.
Is Arsenal the most attacking of the English clubs?
Man U also has an attacking dynamic although its more rigid because Ferguson believes in 2 central midfleders, 2 wingers and 2 forwards. We opt for flexible players on the wing, who can interchange between positions. Liverpool also has the stamp of a very tactical coach.
Is your work glamourous?
The footballer has the glamour. I've spent 50% of my life alone, travelling like that 4 or 5 days per week away from home on average. I have an 8 year old son who I see very little of. We live in Monforte de Lemos[Galician town]. I don't have a wage packet that comes from football.