The people in charge of transfers at each Premier League club

Date published: Monday 27th January 2020 9:28


Ever wondered who runs the rule over transfers at Sheffield United? Who identifies potential signings for Crystal Palace? Who does the negotiating for Manchester United as they haggle over the final £5.37? Let us try and clear things up…


It’s a bit of a mess, as you can imagine. Mikel Arteta has presumably inherited the same amount of transfer sway as predecessor Unai Emery, working alongside head of football Raul Sanllehi, head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, chief negotiator Huss Fahmy and technical director Edu. But who gets the deciding vote? Gunnersaurus?


While the responsibility previously fell to director of football Steve Round, who would compile a shortlist of targets then present it to the manager to choose from, his departure in summer 2018 necessitated a change. Manager Dean Smith, sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch and chief executive Christian Purslow, appointed in October, October and August of that year respectively, have since formed what the Birmingham Mail describes as a ‘triangle of power’.

When the trio come to a conclusion over a potential signing, chairman Nassef Sawiris and majority shareholder Wes Edens – billionaires, both – are asked ever so nicely to part with the requisite funds. Will they need to do so again this month?


“The role is primarily heading up the recruitment department and having a structure in place which can put players in front of Eddie and his staff, allowing them to make decisions that are going to help in the recruitment of players,” said technical director, and former midfielder, Richard Hughes in May 2019. His team includes old Cherries teammate Steve Fletcher, head foreign scout David Webb, scouting and recruitment coordinator Craig McKee, senior recruitment consultant – and former Sky Sports presenter – Andy Burton, UK senior first-team scout Steve Lovell and head of UK first-team player recruitment – and nephew of the manager – Andy Howe. Uncle Eddie has the final say on transfers, with chief executive Neill Blake doing absolute bits in negotiations. Mostly they just ask Liverpool.


Some might say head of recruitment Paul Winstanley was fortunate not to follow Chris Hughton out the door last summer, although substantial gamble Alireza Jahanbakhsh has shown signs of becoming a belated success. He – Winstanley, not Jahanbakhsh – reports directly to chairman Tony Bloom and chief executive Paul Barber with regards to transfers. Graham Potter presumably has more of a say than his predecessor, having brought Kyle Macauley with him from Sweden as assistant head of recruitment. Technical director Dan Ashworth will also be involved, with the club relying on a more data and analytics-based approach than before.


Burnley kindly and transparently described Mike Rigg‘s job specification thus upon his appointment as technical director in November 2018: ‘Rigg, who has held a variety of high-profile roles within domestic and international football, will head up the process of talent identification and recruitment throughout the whole club, from Academy to first team.’ The former head of player acquisition at Manchester City works with head of scouting Martin Hodge to identify targets that require approval from chairman Mike Garlick and manager Sean Dyche before being pursued. The Burnley Express offered an intriguing insight into how the Clarets operate this month. It includes a line about how Rigg ‘has produced some ideal players’…that the Clarets cannot afford.


Transfers tend to be guided by the advice of whichever poor sap is currently manager, but their part ends there. Club director Marina Granovskaia, according to Sky Sports, is ‘responsible for player transactions’ and ‘the scouting structure’. Her importance has only increased since technical director Michael Emenalo left in November 2017, as he is yet to be officially replaced. But she is second in this particular three-tier food chain. Chelsea’s system has, funnily enough, been implemented to ensure they are never reliant on the manager, with owner Roman Abramovich having the absolute final say on transfers.

The Times said last year that Petr Cech would be ‘providing technical advice on prospective signings without making the final decisions on recruitment’ in his role as performance and technical adviser. Scott McLachlan, head of international scouting, will also have input.


“I felt this was a position the club needed,” said Frank de Boer in August 2017, welcoming the appointment of former Palace striker and manager Dougie Freedman as the club’s new sporting director. De Boer was gone within three weeks, with Roy Hodgson taking his place in the current set-up. But the manager is not quite as hands-on when it comes to transfers as chairman Steve Parish, with recruitment manager Omar Yabroudi part of the team working beneath the holy Selhurst Park trinity.


“I would never bring in a player that the coach is not looking for or does not want to work with,” director of football Marcel Brands said last April. “The opposite will also not happen. If Marco likes a player but I don’t think he would fit in with the philosophy of the club or think he is not the right choice, too old or whatever it is. We both have to agree.” Presumably that still stands with Carlo Ancelotti in charge. The pair must come to a unanimous decision informed by chief scout Kevin Reeves and chief European scout Gretar Steinsson (yes, that one) before Brands works his negotiating magic.


After working together at Celtic, manager Brendan Rodgers and head of senior recruitment Lee Congerton were reunited at Leicester last year. They are aided – and sometimes abetted – by a team including first-team technical scout Callum Smithson and first-team and Under-23 technical scout Jose Fontes. Director of football Jon Rudkin brokers any potential deals.


Ah, that dastardly, Brendan-betraying transfer committee. They have laptops and stuff. Jurgen Klopp has somehow managed to harness the powers of air-con enthusiast and sporting director Michael Edwards, head of scouting and recruitment Dave Fallows and chief scout Barry Hunter to create a Treble-chasing machine.


Ever since former head of recruitment David Harrison was tempted over to the dark Manchester United side in January 2017, it has fallen on three men to decide which of the scouting team’s numerous targets should have all the money thrown at them: manager Pep Guardiola, director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano. The Guardian described it as ‘a fluid, quasi-committee basis’ in July 2015, ‘the continental model of having expendable managers within an over-arching football structure’. But the head coach does get the final say, now more than ever. “There are three or four of us who make decisions on sporting matters in this club, without having 18 executives buzzing around,” Guardiola himself last summer.


Hoo boy. When he isn’t relying on transparent PR techniques to salvage his tattered reputation, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is theoretically running this sinking ship. He has the ear of the Glazers and thus the board-sanctioned power to veto any transfers. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and assistant Mike Phelan have plenty of influence over targets, while chief scout Jim Lawlor, head of global scouting Marcel Bout, head performance recruitment analyst and technical chief scout Mick Court do their bits. Matt Judge is chief negotiator, the man who has dealt primarily with agents (but no longer Mino Raiola) since summer 2016.




After Chatty Dad and former chief scout Graham Carr stopped feasting on his past successes, he was replaced by the club’s Under-21s scout Steve Nickson in August 2017. Appointed the new head of recruitment, his official remit is to help ‘evaluate all aspects of United’s player recruitment function, including the processes and systems used for scouting players at all levels throughout the club to ensure Newcastle United is best positioned to achieve its targets in this and future seasons.’ So yeah. He works alongside manager Steve Bruce and managing director Lee Charnley, all before Mike Ashley comes along to sh*t on everything by refusing to hand over an extra £10 for the taxi to bring their prospective new signing to the training ground.


As head of recruitment, Kieran Scott oversees the entire scouting department for both Norwich’s first team and academy. His network will help find targets, while he, manager Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber have the biggest input in terms of a final decision. “My role eventually leads to speaking to Stuart and Daniel where we then go through the players and they then makes the decision on whether we are signing those players,” Scott said in December 2018, with the fruits of their labour evident in a Championship title win. It has understandably been a little more difficult this season, but sustainability rather ironically comes at a cost.


The Blades appointed Paul Mitchell – not that one – as head of recruitment/development after restructuring their entire scouting department in the summer of 2016. Chris Wilder, who replaced Nigel Adkins around the same time, and assistant Alan Knill are particularly involved when it comes to transfers, culminating in their challenge for European qualification. No player is targeted without the manager’s approval. It then falls on chief executive Stephen Bettis to iron out all the details.


The departures of technical director Martin Hunter, executive chairman Les Reed and, most recently, director of football operations Ross Wilson have forced something of a rethink at Southampton. Ralph Hasenhuttl has been working with Matt Crocker since the latter was installed as Wilson’s replacement in the same role in November. Martyn Glover joined from Everton in April as head of scouting and recruitment, but their restructuring behind the scenes continues.


Little is known publicly about the nature of the nascent relationship between Jose Mourinho and everyone’s favourite negotiator Daniel Levy. It seems unlikely that either are willing to cede much in the way of influence or authority over transfers. Their opinions are added to by chief scout Steve Hitchen, who turned down the chance to become Marseille’s director of football in June.


Three men tend to call the shots when it comes to transfers at Watford, another club that employs a system ensuring the manager is more of a cog in the overall machine than anything greater. So Javi Gracia Quique Sanchez Flores Beppe Sannino Nigel Pearson has a say, but managing director and owner Gino Pozzo, CEO Scott Duxbury and technical director Filippo Giraldi make the decisions. According to the London Evening Standard, there is ‘a scouting board’ that operates in conjunction with that trio, comprised of ‘eight or nine’ individuals. They update Pozzo, Duxbury and Giraldi ‘every three months or so’, and they, with consultation from whoever happens to be the manager at that snapshot in time, choose which players to target.


Considering Mario Husillos was brought in as director of football with a remit to “take complete, strategic control of all player recruitment”, his and Manuel Pellegrini’s departures four days before the January transfer window has left West Ham mired in some stickier than usual self-administered sh*t. Davids Gold and Sullivan – and the latter’s children – have presumably resumed their previous roles of guiding deals with the help of David Moyes and eager agents. They really do need that new director of football – but will that appointment come too late?


A vast scouting network reports to sporting director Kevin Thelwell and manager Nuno. Then there’s Jorge Mendes, who chairman Jeff Shi referred to as “like a teacher” in May. That’s one way of putting it.


Matt Stead


More Related Articles