Promotion to the top tier, 10 trophies and around €200 million profit in transfer fees – when Sevilla appointed Monchi as their sporting director at the turn of the century, even they could not have predicted it would be such a success.
This was a club that had won just seven trophies – three of them second division titles – before their former goalkeeper took up his new role in Andalusia.
While the sales of Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Radja Nainggolan and Alisson, to name just a few, brought in plenty of transfer funds, Monchi’s signings repeatedly failed to fill the shoes of their predecessors.
That has seemingly not deterred Arsenal, who have been relentlessly linked with his appointment, which would reunite him with former Sevilla boss Unai Emery.
And, to some degree, it should not. This is a man who spent 17 years working wonders with Los Hispalenses, unearthing gems such as Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic and Frederic Kanoute, while the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes and Sergio Ramos also came through the youth set-up.
Unfortunately, while focused on adapting to his new environment in Rome, there was a negative impact on the factors Monchi has highlighted as the most important for success.
“Coordinating with the manager is fundamental and it’s very important to know the club, know what the city and the club have to offer players,” he explained to Varsity.
“And you have to align that with the kind of player the coach wants to manage.”
However, Monchi’s signings in Rome were extremely disproportionate to the coach’s needs – particularly this summer, when attacking players flooded in and defensive issues in the team were not addressed.
Four of the signings he made in the summer of 2017 have already been moved on, such was their lack of an impact, while only four of last summer’s 10 signings have started more than 10 Serie A games this season.
Moreover, the signings of Javier Pastore, Ante Coric and Nicolo Zaniolo further underlined the lack of understanding between Di Francesco and Monchi. All attacking midfielders, none are suited to the coach’s 4-3-3 formation and therefore have understandably struggled – although Zaniolo has adapted to shine out wide.
“[Pastore is] an all-round playmaker, he has to stay near his opponents’ goal,” explained Sampdoria’s sporting director, Walter Sabatini – the man who brought him to Italy in 2009. That, however, is not the role he has been playing this season.
The lack of cohesion left both men in a mess, with Di Francesco even doubting his own philosophy in order to suit Monchi’s signings, saying after defeat to Bologna: “I don’t know what formation to use.”
As well as lacking the results and trophies to back up his transfer business, Monchi failed to listen to his own advice and ‘know the club’, with Roma fans much tougher to please when it comes to selling players.
He instead found himself constantly defending decisions – explaining why the club “needed” to sell Salah one summer, before taking to Twitter to say “selling Alisson would not show a lack of ambition” the next.
It was all a different experience for the sporting director from his Sevilla days and it all came to a head when Roma crashed out of the Champions League against Porto.
At Sevilla, Monchi was worshipped. The 50-year-old took the club from the second-tier to three successive Europa League titles and had that reputation to fall back on if things went sour.
Moreover, he was working in an environment he was comfortable in, having enjoyed an association with the club that lasted just short of 30 years.
But at Roma, he didn’t have that fall-back and the results of his business were so damning that even the support of club legend Francesco Totti, who slammed Monchi’s critics to Marca, couldn’t save him.
Nonetheless, to judge Monchi solely on his two years with Roma would be to judge him unfairly.
A potential move to Arsenal, though again a new environment and club, would be much different simply due to the familiar face of Emery – a man Monchi described as “the perfect fit” as head coach for him as a sporting director.
“Unai is critical for our model to be successful. He obtains results when we need them, he improves the players and is popular with fans,” he said, and the admiration is mutual.
“I worked very well with [Monchi] in Sevilla for three-and-a-half years and my relationship with him is good,” Emery told the media amidst links of a reunion.
“He is a good person and a good professional.” goal.com