PARIS (AFP) – Hundreds of banal matches, thousands of miles on the road, gatecrashing training sessions and cultivating relationships with teachers and parents, such is the life of the football talent scouts scouring playing fields for the next wonderkid.
Much of their method is kept secret and Romain Poirot, former Manchester City scout now working for Watford and Udinese, said “it would be indelicate, revealing too much” to spill the beans.
However, he did reveal that he travels at least 5000km per month to see games, not counting plane and train journeys, on his quest to dig up a rough diamond on his constant meanderings around France.
“Experience is crucial,” he said. “I began with the 1993 generation, that of Paul Pogba. He was already phenomenal at 16. I had nothing to compare him to then.”
Poirot explained that watching training sessions and matches at every level led him to develop a classification method.
“You eventually end up with an eye for it,” he said.
Luiz Rangel, a scout at Rio de Janeiro outfit Vasco da Gama, is of the same persuasion, claiming “you can’t improvise this”.
“Just about everyone believes he is an expert and many of them bring us kids for us to trial,” he said in a jokey manner.
Poirot uses a method in vogue at Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam named TIPS, that is to say technique, intelligence, personality and speed.
“Then you have to look at their growth to see if they are in advance for their age or if they still have a development margin, to gage their potential to develop through the ranks.”
Another Vasco scout, Gilberto Figueiredo, says that mentality is vital.
“We speak to the parents and teachers to find out about their everyday behaviour,” Figueiredo said.
He says watching a non-descript training session at the child’s school can be telling.
Poirot explains that he watches upwards of seven games per weekend from second and third division games thorough to under-15s and 17s, it begins to take on the look of a labour of love.
Rivalry between scouts is ferocious, even if Figueiredo describes it as a healthy rivalry.
“The key thing is to be quick about it, faster than your rival. You need a good network, to know the organisers and leaders at small clubs.”
French scout Loïc Ravenel cuts to the chase.
“The idea is to not miss the star of the future, but to deprive your rivals of him.”