By MICHAEL CALVIN
David Moyes is not a man to cross on a moment’s whim. He has a finely developed sense of respect. His trust, once earned, is of immeasurable importance. His work ethic is prodigious and his wrath is best avoided.
Had he walked into Finch Farm training complex that bleak Wednesday morning he would have been distinctly unimpressed. It was bad enough that a stranger should saunter through the heavy door marked ‘with permission only’, which led to a sequence of four offices which symbolised the continuity of Everton’s decade under the Scot’s control. To allow someone of my calling into the nerve centre of a club which continually overachieves in the face of financial restraint was positively heretical.
Moyes was on a scouting mission in Europe. Thankfully, given my vulnerability, Duncan Ferguson, who has previous in dealing with unwanted intruders, was unaware of my presence. He was flicking yellow-flighted darts into a royal blue board in the players’ dining room around the corner.
My guide, James Smith, Everton’s head of technical scouting who had worked for Moyes since 2003, was free to reveal the science behind the School of Science. Smith operates from the recruitment room. Its contents are highly classified and Moyes’ entire transfer strategy is mapped out on a succession of whiteboards which cover all four walls.
“We can’t afford to get it wrong,” said Smith. “If Manchester City waste £20 million, which they’ve actually done at times, it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. So 20 on Jo, 20 on Roque Santa Cruz. No problem. But if Everton waste £20 million, we’ll wait a long time to get anything like that again. David Moyes spends the money like it’s his own.
“The first thing, of course, is that they’ve got to be good enough to play for a team that wants to be in the top half of the Barclays Premier League. So straight away you’ve ruled out most of the world’s footballers. We know that if they are potentially going to Manchester United, City, Arsenal or Chelsea then they’re not for us. We won’t worry about a David Silva and we dropped out of Gary Cahill quiet early because he was obviously going on to somewhere bigger.”
The secret room – I was sworn to secrecy as to any names – is a mine of information, a tantalising glimpse of what might be, expressed in marker pens of different hues. The first board features the most promising new foreign players, highlighted by the system. They are the pick of the 1,000 or so players under review and are deemed realistic recruits.
The next whiteboard contains live targets who are monitored constantly. Their ages are written in red, on a yellow square. Those names in blue are potential free transfers; those in red carry a price and those in green are potential loanees.
The next whiteboard is a statement of faith to those closest to him. It features favoured Barclays Premier League players, personal choices who are not on any other list. They must be 26 or under, playing for a club outside the top six and considered realistic potential recruits. They have been voted for by Moyes and his senior staff.
The next whiteboard is, in essence, a Moyes mind map and is why the secret room is off limits to players. The whiteboard contains a list of all first team squad players with their ages, contract details and appearance record. There is also Moyes’ idea of his best starting XI and what it will be up to 2014. This offers an insight into which regulars he suspects will fade away and who he hopes will emerge from the supporting cast. It is an imprecise science because of the unpredictability of fate, but the gaps, when they appear, are ominous. This is a visual tool for the black art of management, moving a player on when his use has been exhausted, but his resale potential is still significant.
The next whiteboard is smaller and contains no players over 23. The most promising Championship, League One and Two players are highlighted in blue red and green respectively. The last major whiteboard , the transfer window list, is, in many ways, the most important and contains the names that Everton are actively seeking to sign.
Agents are regarded as most useful in South America where the web of third-party ownership can ensnare the unwise or the unwary. Work permits are a recurring problem and the case of James Rodriguez highlights the dangers, frustrations and potential rewards. A young winger regarded as the most naturally gifted Colombian players to emerge since Carlos Valderrama, he was on Everton’s radar, but dismissed because of the impossibility of securing a work permit due to his lack of international experience.
FC Porto, who operate in a more relaxed administrative environment, paid £4.25 million for a 70 per cent ownership package in July 2010 for Rodriguez who began his career with Banfield in Argentina. Rodriguez signed a four-year contract with a £25 million release clause and Porto quickly sold on 10 per cent of his economic rights.
In November of that year Porto sold another 35 per cent to a Luxembourg-registered company, Gol Football Luxembourg SARL for £2 million. When Rodriguez scored a hat-trick in the 2012 Portuguese Cup final, Porto bought the original 30 per cent of the player they did not own from Convergence Capital Partners B.V. for £1.90 million. That meant they now controlled more than half his economic rights. He signed a new five year contract with a release clause of £37.5 million. Nice work if you can get it.
The scorpion dance was completed in January 2013 when Gol Football Luxembourg SARL sold their 35 per cent back to Porto for £7.1 million, a profit of £5.1 million. In May 2013 AS Monaco paid £37.5 million for Rodriguez, no doubt giving him the “new challenge” he was looking for in the tax-free haven, if not with “another big club.”
*Adapted from The Nowhere Men – the unknown story of football’s true talent spotters – by Michael Calvin (Century, £14.99)