Moncada on how scouting is done at Milan, working with Maldini and signing Theo Hernández, Kjær, Hauge and Leão

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Stadio San Siro before Milan-Sparta Prague on December 10, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

Geoffrey Moncada, the head of scouting of Milan, was a guest on a Podcast and he provided some very interesting bits of information about the behind the scenes of operation at the club.

Milan is one of the youngest teams in Europe but are now also one of the most successful, as they are at the top of the Serie A standings and have advanced to the next stage of the Europa League.

The Rossoneri have got some exciting prospects since Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara have taken over the sporting side, under the watchful eye of Elliott, but a lot of the credit also goes to Geoffrey Moncada, who is at the end of the scouting department at the club.

Moncada was a guest on Podcast Prolongation, led by French journalist Johann Crochet and you can find the translation below, as transcribed by Milannews.it:

On Maldini’s role at Milan: “Among the things I like at Milan there is also the fact that we work with Maldini, who played there, who loves this club so much. When we get a player, Paolo talks to him a lot. He’s very available for him and he also talks with the family. When a young guy comes to Milan, he says ‘ah, it is Paolo Maldini, it is impressive’. If Maldini’s work helps the young guy understand where he is arriving, what is his new reality is? Yes, absolutely. ‘OK, to have arrived at Milan, the work starts now. We believe in you, you must not be timid, show that you have talent and impact. Milan is a huge club. Everything is a function of your success’. We try to reassure these youngsters a bit.”

Frederic Massara, Paolo Maldini, Sandro Tonali and Ivan Gazidis at Casa Milan. (@acmilan.com)

On the relationship with Maldini: “When Paolo tells me that this player is ‘da Milan’ and that we can structure him, help him grow, then I listen to him because he knows how to become a top player. He played in a Milan team that won a lot. And also today, he has passion in his blood, he loves Milan very much. When we get a player, Maldini pays special attention to everything because he wants the player to be an added value. I talk to him a lot.”

On the need to have a good scouting department: “At one time, Milan was already a big club, so maybe they didn’t need to work that much on scouting. They had gotten the strongest player from South America, Kaká, they had gotten Shevchenko who was already playing in the Champions League and he was already very strong. They were going to get the strongest everywhere. Elliott asked to develop the sporting area with scouting and data – statistics. So we decided to create two things: the ‘scouting area’ and the ‘data area’. One works with the other every day. When the ‘data area’ tells us that we have a strong player with numbers then I ask the scouts to go and see him. I like this mix, this work between live and the help of statistics. For Elliott it is important to have reports with statistics, videos, and not just the observations of scouts.”

Milanello training center. (@acmilan.com)

On working with young players: “We’ve done an important work with young players. We don’t take players just for the sake of it, it’s because we believe it’s the right way. Milan didn’t have this reputation of playing with young players so we worked on this, we talked a lot with the families of the players saying that if we take the player then it’s because we believe in him. Not just to let him play once in a while, that’s not it – we want him to become a starter. So we worked on the identity of the team saying that Milan was changing their project. We took a lot of time for this but it is working. Today, there are many clubs, agents and scouts that call me to say ‘we want to come at Milan, what you do is very interesting…’ I have friends in the Red Bull group or in Dortmund and other clubs that work a lot on scouting and they tell me ‘Bravo, we see the changes at Milan, you work very well’.”

On Theo Hernández: “He is a player we know from Atlético Madrid’s U17/U19. It was a work that lasted 4-5 years. And the opportunity to get him came when he was in a bit of trouble at Real Madrid, who had just picked up Ferland Mendy. We had seen his games as a young man, his progress at Real Sociedad on loan and we had talked to his agents. Theo is a train. He destroys the left wing. In today’s football the fullbacks are like that and we want them like that. The modern football in a great team has to be a train, to run a lot like crazy. We were already following him at Atlético Madrid and then at Real Madrid and then he went on loan to Real Sociedad and I said to myself how is it possible that no one is interested in him?’  And the truth is that we didn’t have much competition when we got him. Maldini did a great job, he spoke with the Real Madrid executives and with Theo.”

Theo Hernández and Davide Calabria during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

On Kjær: “Everyone was a bit skeptical in the environment and in the newspapers when we got him. We were in a difficult moment with the change of coach. Pioli had just arrived, we had already taken many young players but we were missing an experienced player. Elliott told us that had spent a lot in the summer so we had to find a low-cost operator and a player who was ready to play immediately, who spoke the language and was strong tactically. We evaluated many names of central defenders from different leagues, but especially the Italian one, because we said that it would be easier to adapt and the name of Kjær came up.”

On Kjær’s characteristics: “We’ve known him for years. We analyzed his matches with Atalanta. He wasn’t bad, his game against Dinamo Zagreb was very good. Then I took the list of Atalanta players and I said: ‘Who has not been successful at Atalanta but has been strong elsewhere?’ and I made a list of a few names. Ibañez, who is one of the best at Roma, did not play at Atalanta. With Simon we were sure we had a player with the right spirit, who is serious, a fighter and with the physique that we wanted. Some say he’s slow but it’s not true: he has perfect positioning, he runs a lot and is tactically good. We also did some work to see his physical problems but there was nothing big. Then another positive factor is the cost of the operation. In the end it cost €2.5m, it’s cheap. His salary I can’t say but it’s not expensive in the sense that many teams can economically afford Kjær. We told Simon: ‘We need you as a leader’. He made himself available immediately. He was crazy about Milan, he has been a fan since he was a kid. He has always been a good player. He reminds of Ricardo Carvalho when we took him to Monaco. Simon has even more grit, he’s not here to joke around. We have to say, now he is one of the best central defenders in Serie A, a very important player for the team. OK, Ibrahimović has changed a lot of things but Simon has also contributed, he is important in the project…”

Simon Kjær during Milan-Hellas Verona at Stadio San Siro on November 8, 2020. (Spada LaPresse)

On Hauge: “The final decision to get him came with the match between Milan and Bodø/Glimt. I have to thank the ‘data area’, who told me about this player back between May and June. We were in full lockdown and we couldn’t travel. I wanted to see this guy live. I need it, because I wanted to see his ability to accelerate, to change paces and his explosiveness. Then, the league was resumed, we were winning games. My guys would tell me many times: ‘Geoffrey, look at Hauge’. Then, at the end of the season, I asked my scouts to analyze the matches with videos. Everyone told me something positive about this player. I didn’t even get any negative feedback.”

On love at first sight with Hauge: “Then came this match. And there we saw something interesting. Also the guys from the technical staff, the match analysts who had prepared the game against Bodø/Glimt for Pioli told me about Hauge. I said to myself ‘they talk to me about him as well…’ And then the match. Maldini, Massara and Gazidis did well, because immediately after the final whistle they went to talk to Bodø/Glimt and to the player, saying that Milan wanted him. The timing is very important and they were very fast. And then, also the cost of the operation. We are talking about a player between €3-4m, we had to get him signed. That’s how we do it in our business. It was ‘to do’ this guy. We also took information about his mentality – zero problems on that. We got him, we make him to progress, and we don’t put pressure on him. He comes from Norway, there’s no pressure. We have players who are more ready than him like Rebić, Leão and Çalhanoğlu. He has to work and he is already part of the team, he plays games. An impressive fact is the number of teams that called us immediately after signing with us to get the player on loan… at least 20 teams.”

Rafael Leão and Jens Petter Hauge celebrating during Milan-Spezia at Stadio San Siro on October 4, 2020. (Spada LaPresse)

On Leão: “If you remember, when we were doing badly with Giampaolo, he had some interesting performances. I remember his game against Fiorentina. He arrived at a difficult moment and it was he who stood out among the players. Then we changed the game system, he got injured, Ibrahimović arrived and Leão disappeared a bit. The coach showed him other things, he had to play on the wing with new training methods and everything else. Today he is a very important for us, we saw him against Roma and Inter, and he is capable of delivering exceptional performances.”

On the decision to buy Leão: “When we got him, we didn’t just get him for what he did at Lille. We knew him even more for what he did before at Sporting Lisbon. In the Youth Sector he was exceptional. In the Youth League he played against Juventus at a very high level. We evidently saw what he did at Lille but it is above all because of what he’d shown at Sporting that we got him. I saw him play as trequartista at Sporting – incredible. We knew what he did well and what he needed to improve, he can still improve physically, he can still score more goals because he can score some very easy goals or some top-class goals. He can score in the future with his head as well, he has the physique to do it.”

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Roberto Giano
4 months ago

It’s the time to play Leao as CF and Rebic as LW again. it’s more effective to produce goals than the contrary. Try Hauge as AMC at second half.

Rossi
Rossi
4 months ago
Reply to  Roberto Giano

Thats logical. Leao has played as CF before in Lile, he is bigger than Rebic and knows how to run on to Croses. But knowing Pioli he will prob play Rebic as CF again. Trying Hauge as AM is a good idea as well.

Lov3ofgod
Lov3ofgod
4 months ago

Loved this article. Love what the new Mulan is aspiring to become. Love the technical team working behind the scenes….. All of them… Scouting coaching fitness diet…. All of them. Take a bow sirs.