News has come to light that Tottenham Hotspur’s head of recruitment, Paul Mitchell, submitted his letter of resignation at Lilywhite House yesterday. Head coach Mauricio Pochettino is said to have played no role in the Englishman’s departure, so it looks as if his resignation is a result of frosty relations with the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy.
Mitchell is renowned for his ‘black box’ – which is, essentially, software he and his team use to compile data about an obscenely high number of players to decide whether they are good transfer purchases. The signings of Dele Alli, Kevin Wimmer and to an extent Heung Min-Son are testament to this; all will be expected to play a big role in the coming season.
All three have been significant upgrades on some of the buys of Mitchell’s predecessor, Franco Baldini, whose disastrous transfer record includes the Brazilian Paulinho and the misfits Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli. His team at Southampton are also credited with discovering an 8-year-old Gareth Bale at a six-a-side tournament in Newport, Wales.
Bale obviously then went on to join Southampton, then onto White Hart Lane before a record-breaking move to the Bernabeu to join Spanish behemoth Real Madrid. He has since once Europe’s most coveted prize, the UEFA Champions League, on two occasions in the previous three seasons.
However, the question remains, will he be missed at Spurs?
Mitchell was definitely much-needed at the time he joined. Spurs were a mess, spending big money on players who never adapted to the Premier League. Under his guidance, the club have made far more astute signings that represent greater value for money – one only has to see John Stones’ move to Manchester City for £47.5 million to recognise that the purchase of Toby Alderweireld, for just over £10 million, was nothing short of a daylight robbery.
However, this value can be found by anyone, anywhere – it doesn’t take a brilliant chairman, or a renowned scouting setup, like the one that Mitchell established, to acquire good players who fit a system; Leicester City’s Ahmed Musa already looks to be a signing along these lines. In this sense, perhaps Mitchell’s influence has been overstated; compared to Franco Baldini, Mitchell may look like a scouting demi-god, but he – and his work – are far from irreplaceable.
Naturally the answer to the main question can only be found with hindsight. If Spurs acquire the services of a knowledgeable and talented new Head of Recruitment (or equivalent title), then Mitchell may well be forgotten quickly. On the other hand, if a Baldini-esque replacement is made – i.e. someone who knows more executives and chairman than players – then Mitchell’s way of working will be desperately missed.
It does, however, seem unlikely that Levy will want to risk the backlash of the fans and Pochettino, himself, by reverting back to someone like Baldini. It seems far more sensible to acquire someone similar to Mitchell, along the lines of Sevilla’s Monchi – the man responsible for the meteoric rises of Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos and Ivan Rakitic, and who developed players like Alberto Moreno and Jesus Navas, to the point where big English clubs were happy to pay big money for them.
His record at Sevilla of bringing younger players in before they then develop into world-class players would fit right in with the philosophy that Mauricio Pochettino is trying to embed at White Hart Lane, and the North London outfit will no doubt look for a candidate with similar qualities to the Sevilla man.
Whilst Monchi himself would be almost impossible to acquire – he’s spent the last 16 years at Sevilla as a Director of Football, having also played in goal for them – but a similar candidate would be of huge benefit to Spurs, who will be looking to secure staff down for the long haul as they look to establish themselves as a presence on the domestic and European stage.
If they can secure a pragmatic and talented candidate to work alongside both Pochettino and Levy, to identify players that will improve Spurs’ already strong first team squad and academy sides, then perhaps Mitchell’s departure won’t be as cataclysmic as fans’ early reactions have suggested.
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