Monchi to Aston Villa: A Reputation Needing Revival
Unai Emery, who worked alongside Sevilla technical director Monchi during his time there, has influenced the powers that be at Villa Park to take a punt on the 54-year-old. Monchi has – in most circles – a glowing reputation in the game and claims many recruitment success stories.
The pairing enjoyed three years together in sunny Seville. It was a relationship that evidently left a lasting impression on the Aston Villa head honcho.
Former Chief Executive of Aston Villa, Christian Purslow, has just departed the club. Yet, there’s clearly a blueprint in position of how Villa intends to move forward. A £1.7m compensation package is required to get their man. It’s a fee that will prove a snip if Monchi arrives and replicates what he has served up at boardroom level in the past.
The news of a shake-up follows positive signings on the pitch. Youri Tielemans has agreed a move to Villa Park. The future of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain may follow suit following his contract expiry at Anfield.
A Snapshot: Career to Date
Once Sevilla’s former goalkeeper, Monchi picked up a role as director at the club in 2000. It was a tricky spell for Sevilla. They had just been relegated from La Liga and were not exactly awash with the kind of finances to guarantee a swift return.
The task for Monchi was set. Return to the promised land in Spain, establish and promote youth from an academy to rival those in the league above, and create a scouting system to provide ample talent to the club at an efficient price point.
Well, getting to La Liga was straightforward enough at the first time of asking. An eighth-placed finish then followed in the top flight. To best highlight Monchi’s work in the background, it’s wise to look no further than two Brazilian signings.
They came with no fanfare – no hefty, eye-watering fees. In fact, both arrived for under £3m. One of them, to this day, is regarded as one of the best full-backs that has ever graced our sport. The duo in question? Bahia’s Dani Alves (£475k) and Julio Baptista, nicknamed ‘The Beast’ at Sao Paolo, arrived at the tender ages of 20 and 21, respectively.
Eleven trophies later, Monchi left for Rome in 2016. His stint was brief, admittedly not making the same impact as in Spain. The former shot-stopper returned to Sevilla in 2019. Since then, Sevilla have won the Europa League (2019/20 & 2022/23) twice. Coincidence? Possibly.
A Spell to Forget in Rome
It’s important not to gloss over Monchi’s stint in Italy as merely a poor, mismanaged period. One must not allow his initial 16-year Spanish stay and the Hollywood names attached to blur the worrying incompetencies shown at the Stadio Olimpico.
Monchi took the reigns in the Spring of 2017 in a move widely regarded as game-changing. This was meant to push Roma forward. It was a signing far more impactful than any £50m centre-forward could be. Or that’s how it was billed on the back of a £5m expense to buy out his contract.
What transpired was simply a spell to forget. Given the consequence of Monchi’s recruitment on the current squad, the Monchi hangover is too visible, too torturous for any devoted AS Roma fan to put to the back of their mind.
After leaving the club, Monchi spoke to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport;
“In Rome, I didn’t have time to correct my mistakes. When I arrived, people thought that in addition to signing the players, I would score and save penalties.”Monchi
Roma Transfers Under Monchi
Such comments follow two years of questionable incomings given the green light by Monchi. After sanctioning the sale of Mohammed Salah for £50m, Roma moved to replace the outgoing Egyptian with Cengiz Under and Patrick Schick. Looking at Salah’s replacements (£50m) in isolation now, it’s apparent that neither worked out in Rome.
It would take a crystal ball to outline Salah’s trajectory at Liverpool, but Roma were never in a position to keep hold of talents clamoured for by bigger clubs around Europe. Leandro Paredes and Antonio Rudiger would both vacate in Monchi’s first season. But, again, it’s difficult to lay any blame at Monchi’s door. There was a cohort of players that wanted ‘bigger and better’ things, and Roma appeared confident of using the funds to kick on. We’ll see more of that in the summer after Monchi’s arrival.
Eusebio Di Francesco was hired in the dugout by Monchi as Luciano Spalletti’s failed Roma stint came to a close. Roma surged towards the Champions League semi-final under the pair’s gaze, overcoming Barcelona in a memorable quarter-final showdown. Roma didn’t get their hands on any silverware, but they had delivered a reason for Roma fans to be confident heading into next campaign.
Below Par Replacements
However, Liverpool returned to take Allison to Anfield after Salah the summer before. Radja Naingolan and Kevin Strootman also left. Roma received roughly £125m in transfer fees and positioned themselves in the transfer market, poised to onboard Monchi-led targets.
Perhaps the most peculiar signings of them all, Javier Pastore and Steven Nzonzi, arrive for a similar fee in which they sold Salah. Both were nearing their thirties and on the wrong side of their peak years. Pastore, in particular, a player more adept at playing in pockets behind the striker, couldn’t find a home in Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 setup. The fans could see it, Di Francesco knew it, and Francesco Totti, then one of the decision-makers at the club, said exactly that before Pastore made the move.
Totti wanted Hakim Ziyech to fill one of the wide positions across the front line, pointing out that there wasn’t a place for Pastore. The one-club man, Totti, stepped down from his role shortly after Monchi left. He spoke of how Monchi never listened to Di Francesco, despite appointing him as the man to lead Roma forward.
Pastore and Nzonzi may not have been the biggest flops at Roma, but they embody the Monchi-era well. Ineffective, overpriced, and lacking any foresight. Think Ante Coric, who played 22 minutes of action in his first season, or Jonathon Silva, struggling for regular game time at Sporting but brought in to replace Ederson Palmieri, who went to Chelsea.
Robin Olsen (£8m) replacing Allison may be one of the biggest downgrades between the sticks European football has ever seen. And there’s a lot of competition there. Olsen, via a loan at Everton and Sheffield United in the Championship, is now at Aston Villa playing second fiddle to Emi Martinez—another familiar face for Monchi to reacquaint with.
Monchi’s positive incomings in Italy are short and sweet. And also up for debate. Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pelligrini, Bryan Cristante, Alexander Kolarov, and Rick Karsdorp make the top five Roma signings under Monchi’s guidance.
Zaniolo, arguably the best of the bunch, was picked up from Inter Milan U19s as a makeweight pawn for Naingolan’s transfer for less than £5m. It’s safe to say Roma fans were initially unhappy with Naingolan’s replacement. However, as Zaniolo became a fixture in the starting eleven, his qualities shone. So much so that comparisons to Francesco Totti as his next heir soon came.
That’s high praise in Rome. Zaniolo’s Roma spell may not have ended in picture-perfect circumstances. The Italian now finds himself in Turkey following multiple injuries as a Roma player. Yet, from Monchi’s perspective, this was an exemplary piece of business from under Inter Milan’s nose. On the flip side, though, you could suggest that Monchi was forced into such a move, involved in a deal led by Inter’s own transfer pursuit, far away from a process of unearthing a rough diamond by his own means.
Unfortunately, there weren’t many similar success stories for Monchi. Not in Rome.
“The big mistake was that I had to better understand what Roma was, what it stands for – the city, the fans and the press. And when I realised it, it was late.”Monchi
Monchi: Best Sevilla Transfers
As Monchi states, it was too late. The signings were complete, and Roma’s financials looked much worse than when Monchi arrived. Once-star assets are now enjoying careers away from Rome, whilst the likes of Robin Olsen were farmed out on loans to attract suitors for players deemed not good enough.
It was a far cry from his time at Sevilla. Monchi could do no wrong in sunny Spain. Focusing solely on recruitment, a significant, overarching facet of any proposed role in the Premier League, Aston Villa fans will be hopeful of replicating the aforementioned success stories under his belt.
We’ve picked out three of the best from a long list to get an idea of the calibre of talent he was unearthing before a Roma stint left a reputation needing revival.
So good, we’ll mention it twice: £475k.
Seville will fondly remember Dani Alves bombing up and down the right wing with a cultured right foot. His talents nudged a £40m transfer over the line to Barcelona. Alves was present during one of the most significant periods of the club’s history, winning three Champions League titles, six La Liga crowns, and four Copa Del Rey lifts.
In the kit of Sevilla, though, he was part of a group that won two UEFA Cups (2005/06 and 2006/07) on the bounce. The latter includes a Spanish Cup triumph to etch a historical double at Seville’s door.
The Malian arrived at Sevilla in 2005/06. In 2007, Frederic Kanoute was crowned African Footballer of the Year. If that doesn’t outline his performances in his first two years at Sevilla, then we’re not sure what will.
Kanoute became a legend at the club. He scored 136 goals in 290 appearances. It was a period that spanned seven years, with Kanoute a permanent fixture at the top end of the pitch. Kanoute and Savilla’s love affair, in 2006/07, won Copa del Rey, the UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup. The former West Ham and Spurs frontman produced 30 goals in 48 showings that season, a nod towards why Sevilla won’t forget him.
He boasts the most appearances in the Andalusian club’s history. After signing from Bundesliga club Schalke (£2m) at 22 years old, Ivan Rakitic has spent most of his career in Spain.
Despite a transfer to Barcelona and back, he’s still pulling on the Sevilla shirt. Given his longevity, the trophies won at Sevilla and in Catalonia, the Croatian has outmuscled the rest into making the top three.
Rakitic left Barca to ease the club’s debts in 2020. Overlooking more lucrative offers from the Premier League and further afield, Rakitic came home. The Europa League win in May signals he may have got that decision right.
Monchi to Aston Villa
Whether Monchi to Aston Villa is another right decision is yet to be seen.
The fact that it’s Unai Emery in the Villa hot seat calling for Monchi should fill those in the midlands with the belief that this appointment will threaten to go the right way.
Roma fans will tell you to run a mile. Emery will clearly say the opposite. This is a technical director who needs to make sure the Monchi-Aston Villa era mirrors what we saw in Spain for his name to not be dragged further through the mud and to ring-fence his future in the sport at the elite level.
Whatever transpires, Aston Villa are in Europe, they have the financial muscle to compete, and right now, they think Monchi is the fitting addition to lead the club forward.
Monchi to Aston Villa: A Reputation Needing Revival