European football clubs, especially German ones, employ a sporting director, i.e. a middleman between the head coach and the chairman of the club.
The sporting director is also responsible for signing new players and shaping the philosophy of the club starting from the youth to the first team.
And while English clubs tend to bundle the role of sporting director and coach into one, more teams are also embracing the Continental style of team management and introducing this position.
Who are the best sporting directors in football and what clubs are they managing?
Read below to find out.
- Current club: Sevilla
- Age: 53
- Place of Birth: San Fernando, Spain
- Most popular signings: Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Ivan Rakitic, Ever Banega, Vitolo, Jesus Navas & more
Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo, known as Monchi, is a former goalkeeper and the most successful sporting director in the world of football.
When taking up the position in 2000, the 53-year-old Spaniard was tasked with developing a system that will produce young talent as well as creating a widespread scouting network to cover as many players, leagues and competitions as possible.
Mochi managed to do this and more. Today Sevilla has an academy that could rival the best football academies, counting 400 players in 22 youth teams, and one of the biggest scouting networks with more than 700 scouts worldwide.
Not only did his contracts help the club clinch three European League titles in three consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2016, but most of the players he brought in left Sevilla for more than four times what the club originally paid for them.
- Current club: Liverpool
- Age: 41
- Place of Birth: Hessle, England
- Most popular signings: Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Fabinho, Alisson Becker, Harvey Elliott & more
Liverpool’s head of program for the past 10 years, Michael Edwards has done an outstanding job at keeping this legendary English team at the top of world football.
The 42-year-old took the role in 2011 and will be leaving in the summer of 2022, after spending a decade with The Reds. During this time, he managed to bring in 22 players for a total of £487.5 million, giving one of today’s most successful managers, Jurgen Klopp, the team that won both the Premier League and Champions League titles.
He is also responsible for some of the most creative transfers in the club’s history, selling around 27 players and earning the Reds a total of £371.1 million in the process.
Edwards will be replaced by Julian Ward, who has been with the club since 2012 and has recently served as his assistant.
- Current club: Borussia Dortmund
- Age: 59
- Place of Birth: Dortmund, Germany
- Most popular signings: Robert Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa, Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham & more
Michael Zorc has been with Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund for 43 years, first as a player and then as a sporting director. He is still the player with the most club appearances (572) and the second top goalscorer with 131 goals.
Taking up the position of sporting director shortly after retiring from playing, Zorc signed up some of the biggest names for the club, including one of the highest-paid soccer players Robert Lewandowski and Norwegian striker Erling Haaland.
Zorc’s work is considered unique as he has managed to spot and develop young talent, bringing in obscure players like Shinji Kagawa and selling them off as huge stars for even bigger fees.
His time with Borussia Dortmund is coming to an end, though. He is set to retire in July 2022, succeeded by ex-club captain Sebastian Kehl.
- Current club: Manchester City
- Age: 57
- Place of Birth: Olaberria, Spain
- Most popular signings: Ederson, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, Fernando, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias & more
Aitor “Txiki” Begiristain Mujika started his career as a sporting director in 2003 with Barcelona where he played a crucial role in the club’s Tiki-Taka football. He moved on to Manchester City in 2012 where he achieved the biggest success.
Txiki Begiristain was pivotal in bringing Pep Guardiola to the club, thus leading Manchester City to the top of the Premier League four times. Begiristain was also instrumental in signing some of the club’s best players, including Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas, as well as goalkeeper Ederson, forward Raheem Sterling and one of the best Premier League players right now, Kevin De Bruyne.
Not all of his signings were that good, though. Before getting Guardiola on board, Begiristain made some bad choices, such as paying huge sums for players, which they could certainly afford since they have the biggest wage bills in the Premier League.
- Current club: Inter Milan
- Age: 64
- Place of Birth: Varese, Italy
- Most popular signings: Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba & more
Few sporting directors can brag that they assembled one of the best teams in the world for next to nothing. Giuseppe Marotta is one of them.
The 64-year-old Italian is credited with bringing one of the most successful clubs Juventus back to world football, helping the club move from Serie B to become one of the most formidable teams in Italian football.
Marotta is also known for making incredibly smart transfer decisions, signing top players like Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio for free, and bringing stars like Arturo Vidal, Carlos Tevez, and Dani Alves at a minimal cost. In fact, the players that scored a third of the goals for Juventus in the 2014/2015 season collectively cost less than £12,000.
Inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2014, Marrota currently serves as the CEO for sport at Inter Milan.
Even though most teams do not place a lot of value in this role, our short list of the best sporting directors in football in 2022 proves just how essential and useful they can be. From signing players on a budget to partnering with coaches to create the ultimate playing strategy, sporting directors are valuable members of a football team and one of the reasons behind the success of many big clubs in the world.