Manchester United are back in the market for director of football after the role was put back on the table by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, two years after the club initially started the search and later flip-flopped on the issue.
Jose Mourinho wasn’t keen on working in conditions whereby somebody might have been brought in above him. Then United decided they didn’t need one following the permanent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the continuing evolution of the club’s structure that had needed updating and modernising ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
But the director of football that United now envisage having doesn’t necessarily match up with the traditional expectations of what a director of football does. This will be someone to complement the current structure and culture and form part of the existing collaboration, rather than build something new from the ground and be in charge of it all.
United’s director of football won’t be a head of recruitment, they will work alongside Solskjaer and his staff, the club’s scouting network, analysts, Woodward and chief negotiator Matt Judge.
That would likely rule out someone like Monchi, who was famed for his impact on Sevilla and later poached by Roma where he was promised complete control of the sporting operations – ultimately his time there was unsuccessful and he claimed he and the club were working in different directions.
It could still be someone high profile, but the criteria of the role would make it clear that they have to be willing to work within the structure that is already in place and won’t be in charge.
Since 2012, Andrea Berta has helped build Atletico Madrid, a club that hasn’t always been able to compete at the top end of the transfer market and have unearthed gems from elsewhere, like goalkeeper Jan Oblak and midfielder Rodri – now at Manchester City. Even his capture of Kieran Trippier last summer has proven to be a stroke of genius.
With United no longer interested in buying established superstars at their peak, bringing on board someone who has a track record of finding developing players has potential merit.
The Italian is also a former banker and had no previous experience in football as a player before he moved into the sport, which mimics the kind of career path that Woodward and Judge have had at Old Trafford.
Whether United would be put off by his rumoured close ties with Jorge Mendes, having previously fallen foul of using agents and intermediaries to direct recruitment, remains to be seen, although it doesn’t appear to have unduly influenced transfers he has overseen in Madrid.
Fabio Paratici has made a name for himself over the last two years as head of football operations at Juventus, although he has been with the club since 2010 when he was poached from Sampdoria.
Technical expertise aside, the Italian’s attention to detail as a mediator when it comes to transfers is not unfamiliar from the Sir Alex Ferguson playbook. When it came to Juve signing Kingsley Coman and Alvaro Morata, Paratici is believed to have visited both players, established personal relationships with them and made sure he was well versed on their families and situations.
A former journeyman defender in Italy’s lower leagues, Paratici has the kind of humility and a seeming lack of ego that would allow him to succeed in the kind of structure United are laying out, where he would be one of many with a voice instead of the chief.
His manner is also not that of a loud extrovert and instead that of someone who prefers to metaphorically ‘whisper’. Again, that personality is aligned with what United would want.
Antero Henrique is largely known as the man who convinced Kylian Mbappe to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, perhaps his chief legacy from his time at Parc des Princes.
Neymar also arrived at PSG that same summer, but Mbappe was the real jewel and it is alleged that Henrique spent two days persuading the player and his father that the sporting project in the French capital was the right one for them.
If United need an extra voice to sell the club, not necessarily to take charge of the negotiations, Henrique could be a person of interest.
Perhaps just as important is his previous body of work at Porto, where the Portuguese executive spent 25 years, beginning in the communications department in the late 1990s and eventually becoming chief executive and vice-president.
Given that United are seeking a director of football to do much more than just focus on recruitment and will include taking a role in training ground changes and developing the club’s women’s side, Henrique’s record of modernising Porto off the pitch suggest he has the right credentials.
Source : 90min