Scouting the Key for FC Utrecht

FC Utrecht faces unique chal­lenges in terms of scout­ing and recruit­ment com­pared to Holland’s​ ‘Big Three’ clubs. We caught up with Alje Schut, Chief Scout at Utrecht, to dis­cuss how they use data and video analy­sis to be com­pet­i­tive in the trans­fer market.

1) Creativity is key

Just like for the play­ers on the pitch, cre­ativ­i­ty is one of the most use­ful skills for scouts and recruit­ment teams, espe­cial­ly when it comes to com­pet­ing with clubs with big­ger resources. The goal is the same — get­ting the best play­ers — but work­flows must be different.

“Of course, we don’t have the big bud­gets like Premier League or Serie A teams”, said Schut.​“That means we have to be inven­tive, we have to be cre­ative. We have to build a net­work that we can rely on. We have to see a lot of games.”

“It’s chal­leng­ing because we can­not buy play­ers that are a ’ fin­ished prod­uct’, we have to sign them young. We know our posi­tion in the mar­ket so we know we have to sign them, devel­op them and then sell them on. OurU23team is play­ing in the sec­ond divi­sion, where they can gain a lot of expe­ri­ence. They can devel­op there and be groomed for the first team.”

2) Technology to the rescue

To unearth the next hid­den tal­ent teams like Utrecht need to search a wider range of ter­ri­to­ries, but with lim­it­ed time, mon­ey and peo­ple they have turned to tech­nol­o­gy to assist them.

“We have five scouts at Utrecht”, said Schut.​“That’s not a lot but we do want to see a lot of games. There’s a lim­it­ed num­ber of match­es that you can see through live scout­ing. So, we watch a lot of videos.”

“We tend to watch the video first, run through data and then go to live scout­ing because if you just go to a coun­try and start scout­ing, you will often be at the wrong match at the wrong time.​“That’s why Wyscout helps us, hav­ing the best footage and all the leagues we need for our work­flow. Our net­work of coun­tries that we scout has grown a lot in the last decade as a result.”

3) From Orlando with… Data

But how does this apply to real-life, day-by-day scout­ing?. In the very last days of the trans­fer mar­ket,FCUtrecht’s cap­tain Willem Janssen got injured and the scout­ing depart­ment had to find a replace­ment before the trans­fer win­dow closed. They end­ed up sign­ing Lamine Sane, who at time was play­ing for Orlando City in the MLS.

“We watched many videos and ran the data. Eventually, we were deter­mined to sign Lamine but there was no time to scout him live in Orlando. So we were depen­dent on videos and data. We watched a lot of video footage — the five of us togeth­er — we ana­lyzed the stats, watched some inter­views online. We asked our net­work which kind of per­son he was.”

“Then we set up a con­ver­sa­tion with him and we decid­ed he was the right play­er. But in the end, we signed him with­out ever watch­ing him play live”.

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