Chelsea to recruit Barca's Director of Sport
As transfer day limps to its underwhelming conclusion, there are rumours in Spain that Chelsea could be making a new off-pitch signing.
The man in question is Txiqui Begiristain, who would set a new Scrabble record with his first name alone. Txiqui was the Director of Sport at Barca under the previous President, Joan Laporta. Laporta`s mandate ended over the summer, there were elections, and the new bloke, Sandro Rossell did what all newly-elected leaders do, i.e. replacing the previous incumbent`s people with his own. Txiqui, an essential architect of Barça`s success, left the club in June, after 7 years at Barcelona. He made it clear that he was keen to look for pastures new.
And those pastures could be in London, where it is said that Roman Abramovich wants to build a football empire similar to that at Barcelona. Begeristain has there been made an offer that 'cannot be refused`. The man behind this rumour, well-known journalist Guillem Ballagué, says that 'from what I`m told, Txiqui will become the new Director of Football from the beginning of January`.
Ballagué has a mixed record on rumours. On the one hand, he has his entries to a lot of corridors of power in Spanish football. On the other, he has been the man who has broken out some quite excitable cobblers. Fernando Torres to Chelsea was, according to him, a 'done deal`. However, the rumour that Chelsea could be interested in Begeristain has been floating around for some months now.
The rumour would cast doubt on the future of Chelsea`s current 'Director of Football`, Frank Arnesen. If there is a different title in Spain compared to England, Spanish clubs tend to give the title 'Director of Sport` as they tend to cover more than just football. Barcelona, for instance, also has an all-conquering basketball team, as well as a pretty good handball team. Chelsea, of course, only has football.
Arnesen has been given the role of head talent scout, in charge of uncovering football talents. Despite a moderate hype, it is hard to point to many youngsters ready to break into the first team. If anything, for all the reported promise, the kids tend to be locked in the lower levels, leaving on loan deals, but not making the jump to the Chelsea first team. José Mourinho blamed the lack of talented youth in the Chelsea ranks on Frank Arnesen."
On the other hand, the Barcelona model is one that must be attractive to any club. Xavi Hernandez, Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes … many of the Barça first team (and most of the 2010 World Cup winning Spanish side) were home grown at the Barcelona school at La Masía, an institution where kids of all levels learn a football philosophy, as well as schooling in life. No wonder that, as well as being extraordinary footballers, they are also well-balanced individuals. It`s a model that is the envy of world football.
And the rumour is that Roman wants to change the club structure to create a new Masía at Chelsea, and he considers that the best person to oversee this project is the one who has had such an impact on the original Masía, Txiqui Begeristain. It would mean changing the way the club does many things, from training to schooling, not to mention the role of the younger levels in relation to the first team, as well as modifying the role of the first-team coach.
And if the rumour is true, it would be a powerful declaration of intent. Watch this space.