Assuming you’re not a cynic who thinks the timing of this smells like a PR exercise by the club (*cough*), Arsenal are reportedly looking to recruit a sporting director as part of a shake-up of the club’s off-field structure.
The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson, the board’s fail-safe go-to media contact, suggests that Dick Law, Arsenal’s transfer ‘guru’, would be open to working with a newcomer in the short-term before handing over the reigns.
The report also states: “Should Wenger leave this year, it is likely that the [hiring] process would be accelerated and a sporting director figure would come in with a new manager, who is almost certain to take a more narrow focus of responsibilities.”
If you ask us, this type of article – dangling the prospect of change – hints more at Wenger signing a new deal and controlling an evolution of the set-up than him calling it quits in the summer.
The sporting director (aka director of football) position has become increasingly popular in England having found a strong foothold in the continental game. That said, the nature of the role is often unclear and extremely variable.
Responsibilities have included everything from working as an intermediary between manager and board, advising the manager and board on transfers, negotiating transfers and even stepping in as caretaker in the aftermath of a managerial sacking.
Prior to Wenger’s arrival and during the Frenchman’s early years at Highbury, vice-chairman David Dein played a role in securing transfers and much more beyond, however, his personal relationship with the man he hired and shareholder status defied any formal definition. As mentioned earlier, Dick Law now runs the team that dots the i’s and crosses the t’s with new and existing players.
Possible candidates for the role will obviously be dictated by what the role entails. The Independent throw five names into the hat: Sevilla’s Ramon Rodríguez Verdejo, Borussia Dortmund’s Michael Zorc, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Jordi Cruyff and ‘Invincible’ duo Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp.
Obviously, the romance of inviting back either of those last two is plain to see. For what it’s worth the likes of Edu (former director of football at Corinthians & team coordinator of Brazilian national team), Marc Overmars (director of football at Ajax), Gilberto (a short stint as technical director at Panathinaikos) are other ex-Gunners gaining experience in and around the boardroom of clubs.
One further ‘Invincible’ option is Robert Pires *swoon* who has said repeatedly, that he’d be interested in the role. At the tail end of last year he said:
“Yes, that [being sporting director] is my objective. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I need to talk about it with the owners and Arsene Wenger. I’d love this job, I love to talk with the players.
“If I’m given this job one day, I can stay in contact with football, especially with Arsenal.
“I have a good relationship with the manager, that’s important. I can work with the players, I can give advice to the young players, so we can find a good relationship between me and the players.”
Arsenal are also currently recruiting a new head of the Academy after Andries Jonker quit his role to take over as head coach at Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.