Wyscout Talks: Leeds United’s Director of Football, Victor Orta
A few months ago, while we were in the beautiful Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam for the 2019 edition of Wyscout Forum, we had the chance to spend some time with one of our conference speakers: Leeds United Director of Football, Victor Orta.
During his speech, the Spaniard presented how The Peacocks’ recruitment department works, which are the main duties of a Director of Football – he used the most of the presentation he gave to LUFC owner Andrea Radrizzani – and more. After his speech, we asked him to explore certain topics a little more with us, trying to give some insight on how a professional club’s recruitment department works, how players are scouted and how technology fits into these processes.
This is the latest episode of Wyscout Talks, our series with which we want to show you how professionals work in their daily routine and what their main challenges are.
Director of Football
We already had the chance to talk about the role of Director of Football in our chat with Olympique Marseille Sporting Director, Andoni Zubizarreta but, as Orta himself highlighted, “not everyone in England knows exactly what are our duties or our tasks. In other countries, like Spain or Italy, there is more knowledge about this job, while in England is just starting to become renowned, also thanks to successful models like Stuart Webber at Norwich City.”
So, what does a Director of Football exactly do? For your information: it has nothing to do with training methods and picking lineups. “People used to think that but no, it’s the complete opposite”, said Orta. “My main goal and challenge are to try to back up the manager’s work and try to create a philosophy in the club. I’m responsible for three main goals: sports results, business results, and community results. Having a perfect balance between the three would be a successful situation for me.”
Having such broad goals means having lots of responsibilities to deal with, that go beyond scouting and recruitment. “It’s more than that”, explains Orta. “I’m responsible for coordinating all the human resource of the football side: the head coach, medical department, media department, scouting and event the academy. I need to be involved in every decision related to football.”
Scouting & Recruitment
Regardless of the responsibilities he may have, as a Director of Football Victor Orta spends most of his time under the spotlights for transfer market reasons. Scouting and recruitment are a huge part of the job and probably the most interesting one, media-wise. So, what is Leeds United looking for when trying to recruit a player?
“It’s a good question because we’re actually creating a document called ‘DNA Leeds United’, trying to define which is our standard for recruiting a footballer.” While trying to do that, Orta identified four key pillars to be used when evaluating a player. “One is the technical level and if you want to minimize the risks you can use tools like Wyscout to monitor player for all the time you need. The second is the physical level and in this century there are tools to monitor that as well. Then, there are two situations with which is harder to minimize the risk. One is the ‘transition’: if a player is performing well in a certain league or context, will he be able to perform just as well in a different situation? Finally, the mental side. This is the riskiest because, in the end, footballers are persons and a lot of things can happen around them.”
One of the most common discussions in football is whether the manager should be involved in the transfer market or not, but Orta seems to have a clear idea about his work with Marcelo Bielsa. “It’s not only Bielsa, it’s every manager”, he says. “If you don’t involve your manager in recruitment, you’re making a huge mistake. All my most successful signings were made in complete synergy with the head coach. You need to share all the information with him and to make him part of all the decisions that are taken.”
And one of the things that most changed how such decisions are taken is technology. Over the last decade, scouting and recruitment were taken to the next level thanks to tech. And yet, many steps of Leeds United recruitment team’s workflow could still be considered as ‘traditional’. “In the end, 70% of my work is ‘old style’ – reports, live scouting and human judgement – while the other 30% is technology, stats and algorithms. As I always say, football is not a sport of repetition like basketball or baseball, where you can quantify good qualities. In football, stats help but I still keep the old-school reports as the base of my decisions.”
And to make better decisions knowledge is essential, especially for a club that wants to re-establish itself as one of the mainstays in the most competitive league in the world. “In the past, information was the key”, Victor Orta told us. “But now, thanks to tools like Wyscout, information is everywhere, at hand, even for smaller clubs. Nowadays, the key is to be quick in creating knowledge with the information that you receive. That’s how to be a successful scouting department.”
That’s not an easy task, especially because today a club receives lots of information from hundreds of leagues around the world, including youth competitions. And that’s when technology and data can be of help. “Not being a big club, we cannot have a scout in every country and we have to prioritize some leagues rather than others. I’m never going to assign a player to one of my scouts just because he has good stats. I need to evaluate him because stats are not enough to judge if he can be a good fit for us.”
“But Wyscout changed football, it made the difference in terms of recruitment. I think I’ve been the second person in the world to have Wyscout after Fabio Paratici and I worked and grew with it. It’s so much easier for me to have everything I need in one place.”