The Evolution of Sports Directors in Ligue 1: From Club Loyalists to Key Organizational Figures

Bernard Lacombe in Lyon, José Anigo at OM, Jean-Michel Moutier at PSG, Pierre Dréossi in Rennes, Eric Roy in Nice and even, well before, Robert Budzynski in Nantes or Pierre Garonnaire in Saint-Etienne. Sports directors, recruiting managers or special advisors to the president have always existed. But they remained loyal to their club whose colors they had, as a general rule, defended on the pitch. From now on, they are a currency like any other. And in Ligue 1, at the end of the season, their destiny fuels the daily soap opera more than that of the coaches or players.

A few months after the departure of David Frioo from OM for OL, Florian Maurice (Rennes), Florent Ghisolfi (Nice and now AS Rome), Grégory Lorenzi (Brest), Frédéric Hebert (Lens) or Carlos Avina (Monaco) nourish the ambitions of many clubs who are fighting for them. They themselves now have career plans like Florent Ghisolfi who moved from Lens to AS Roma via Nice in just a few months. Gone is the right arm of the president who manages current affairs in the shadows. The sports director is now at the center of the debates.

Ghisolfi, Lorenzi and Maurice shake up the transfer window for sports directors

Credit: Marko Popovic

The post is becoming more and more crumbly

“Before, the clubs were managed by a triumvirate: president, sports director and coach, informs us Alain Caveglia, sports director of Caen for eight years. They decided on the sportsman and a little on the financial side. This was lost with the era managers like Arsène Wenger and Gérard Houllier who had enormous networks For some time now, the position of sports director has been making a comeback.

He has even become the keystone of the project and when a club wants to start from scratch or launch a new project, like Nice or Rennes today, the first stone of the new building is the sports director. It is he who will choose the coach, instill a dynamic and chart the trajectory.

“Today, we are looking for the rare bird,” confides Jean-Luc Buisine, who was also coveted by Rennes, Monaco and Lille a decade ago. “It’s a story of cycle. We no longer just change the “coach but also the one in charge of the sporting vision.” “The shareholders have changed,” notes Laurent Schmitt, sports agent. “They are delegating more and more operational matters to general managers and people in charge of sports. If there is movement, it is because the position is more and more crumbly, like that of the coach. There is wear and tear, fatigue and when we have to change cycle, we change sports director.

Florent Ghisolfi, the sporting director of Nice, has joined Roma.

Credit: Getty Images

Trading is now at the heart of everything and the sports director is the specialist

“We must realize the enormous pressure that weighs on the shoulders of leaders today, even more so with social networks, testifies Buisine. The pressure that Longoria is under at the moment is phenomenal. Already, ten years ago, when I was walking around Monaco during the break and we were last, I was moved and it was only in Monaco… You have to be strong to resist and that can explain the current movement. “The other reason is the emergence of a very talented new generation,” Schmitt continues. Today, much more than yesterday, the success of a club bears the mark of the person who managed its recruitment.

Ghisolfi in Lens last season, Grégory Lorenzi in Brest this year. The coach and the players are no longer the only ones to capitalize on unexpected success. From now on, those who are behind their arrival can also imagine a career in a more ambitious club. “The main explanation for this renewed interest in sports directors lies in the obsessions of the new managers, continues Buisine. Many of them came to Europe because they realized that a player can go from a value of 2 to 20 million euros in a few months It is the best financial investment in the world. Trading is now at the heart of everything and the sports director is the specialist.

Florian Maurice, the sports director of Stade Rennais.

Credit: Getty Images

Openda, Clauss, Fofana: the success of Ghisolfi

Because he unearthed Openda, Clauss, Gradit, Sotoca, Frankowski, because he managed to convince Seko Fofana to extend, because he doubled or even tripled their market value in Lens, Ghisolfi has a rating of hell. Even if, in Nice, his successes were less dazzling, AS Roma decided to trust him. “He is an excellent organizer of the sports sector, effectively coordinating the forces around him, scouting or performance units,” notes Laurent Schmitt. “He made very good choices of coach. He is smart, skillful and hard-working.”

If Eric Roy or José Anigo ended up on coaching benches, today’s profiles seem to direct them more towards general management positions. Like Pablo Longoria who went from sports management to president of OM in just a few months. A trajectory that resembles that of Olivier Létang, sports director of PSG then president of Rennes then Lille. This shows the importance of these men in the organizational chart of the clubs of which they have become the real keystone.

2024-05-26 22:27:00
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