Why Arsenal don’t need scouts (Part 3) – The growth of the Agent/Scout

Francis Cagigao Had it Coming (Part 3) by AI

In this final part of the series that explains why Arsenal might no longer require the services of Francis Cagigao, we look at the hybrid agent-scout.

Recently, Arsenal have been heavily linked with a 17-year-old winger from Sporting CP. The links were not so surprising anymore when the player turned out to be represented by Kia Jorochaban, an agent who has been reported to be in cahoots with Edu and the executives.

While most people question the links and even the talent of Joelson Fernandes, a more important question is being left unanswered; Why would a very young player be already represented by one of the biggest agents in the world? How did Joelson, just 17, end up on the books of Kia?

The answer is scouts…

Most top players in the world are represented by one agency or the other. Representation is far more personal than the club-player relationship. Sometimes, agents can be family members or close friends. So it is far more difficult to separate a player from his agent compared to separating a player from a club.

With all that said, players also run to the end of their careers. And that can mean the end of a player being a cash cow for an agent. To keep a continual roster of players under their representation, agents must scout for new players, too.

As with everything, there are levels to the agent-scout. New, enterprising agents must scour around for clients who are talented enough to bring them into the big time with well-paying clubs. So an ambitious agent might scout for talent himself, or better still, employ scouts to do that for him.

For bigger agents, they rarely do any scouting themselves. They usually have a network of scouts working for them and they can concentrate on keeping a good relationship with coaches (who might also recommend a player), the players they represent and their families.

The very biggest agents head organizations that employs agents and scouts and puts them to work. Agents are also aware of each other: who is with who, and who is weak or strong. It is just like any other professional field.

Basically, a club like Arsenal once needed and could afford a big scouting department, more than say, Derby County. But with the modern proliferation of the agent-scout and analytics, everything is much easier. The biggest agents and agencies represent an obscene amount of talent and they all want to work with the best-paying clubs, of which Arsenal are among. Mino Raiola, for instance, would recommend an Erling Halaand to Arsenal but not Swansea City. And just as all the scouts know all the top talents, so do the agents. There’s no information barrier.

So why should clubs at the highest levels of football run a scouting department when agents could simply do that for them?

Wolves are a good example of this. Real Madrid and Barcelona are also good but distinct examples.

While both Spanish clubs run holistic talent identification systems (both human scouting and analysis), they are some of the most agent-reliant clubs out there. But within their internal setups, Real Madrid rely more on human scouting while Barcelona generally rely on analytics. Barcelona are quite reputable for having the best analytics department in soccer (Liverpool simply have a more integrated department).

Yet for all these, both clubs operate in unique ways. Their approach is determined by their recruitment plan. According to The Athletic, Real Madrid are notorious for barely using their scouting network at senior level. They almost do not scout at the first-team level. But they have a heavy presence at youth competitions. Real Madrid can pay for any superstar in the world but they’d rather cut costs if they could get them younger.

Take Federico Valverde for an example. When he was 17 and still at Penarol, Arsenal scouts heavily recommended him. He was invited over several times for a trial, but Arsenal soon found themselves unable to sign him up. His agents had established contact with Real Madrid who were able to quickly sign him up even though they had not put in as much work as Arsenal.

Arsenal scouted Valverde but he ended up at Real Madrid because Real Madrid had a better relationship with the agents.

This is why Francis Cagigao had it coming. Talent identification is so much easier to do nowadays. It is simply better to go through agents directly than the archaic methods of Arsene Wenger from the early 1990s. The list of players Arsenal have missed out on because they do not have a great relationship with agents is criminal. I will not make that list here. Only one name on it will suffice: Ngolo Kanté.

Agboola Israel

Read Part 1 here Why Arsenal are right to fire Francis Cagigao and our other scouts

Read Part 2 here Why Arsenal are phasing out human scouting


  1. Great set of articles, thank you, I don’t like the Kia connection very much, however i agree that these days even 15 year olds are well known, so are scouts as important as they once were, well NO, I’d heard of Martinelli in December 2018 & I’m just a fan, AFC were interested so were Barca & Man Utd he eventually came to Arsenal, I’d heard of Bellingham 2.5 years ago, only because my mate supports the Blues, even, we signed Nketiah after Chelski released him, no secret no scout required so we snapped him up, we will still need scouts just not as many as before, especially if the market AFC are competing in is more agent driven

  2. Very interesting and informative series Agboola and may I commend you on your excellent use of the Eng!ish language.Clearly the emergence of agents at the expense of traditional scouting methods is currently in the ascendancy but at the end of the day a personal judgement on the player concerned has to be made by someone in authority at the interested Club.My concern is the possibility that the team Manager will have pressure put on him to go along with the recommendation of the “super agent” who, like it or not, has a vested interest in concluding a deal.We as a Club should not be recruiting on the basis of having a cordial relationship with an agent, but on the ability of the player under review.Basically the Club which is spending the cash should make the decision and should not be influenced in that decision by the Agent. In practical terms I sincerely hope Arteta is strong enough to resist the overtures made by the likes of Kia Joorabchian unless he is absolutely sold on the player himself.

  3. I have really enjoyed the 3 articles you have written and can concur how this works as my 29 yr old son is an agent himself.
    You also have to look at clubs that have taken this approach and the success they have had in that time over us who have proceeded to look for talent through scouts.
    How much have we invested in talent that has been far from what was they were supposed to be?
    Also Francis Cagigao is credited with Martinelli from most sources but was he? Edu was technical director of the Brazil national team and had a hand in bringing the then 16yr old to come train with them, surely he must take the credit for finding Martinelli right?

  4. Thanks for the three articles, well researched and explained.
    Such a shame that the third article was produced at the same time as Ozil’s announcement about his decision to stay at the club.

  5. Thank you for the articles. I guess the concern that I have is a need for due diligence – we have to have some capacity to objectively challenge the agent/scout and the data.

    Of course, if the agent isn’t doing a good job on their end the results will show, but only after one or more clubs have made their investments.

    But to be fair, the old system hasn’t been working very well for a number of years now – a lot of misses in our business: poor purchases, not filling glaring needs, a seeming moth-to-the-candle obsession with older, injured players.

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