My opinion – by Rui Oliveira

How to scout players

Today I’ll be addressing two very common questions: how many observations must one execute before signing a player, and should a player be signed only considering the video observations.

In my opinion, there isn’t a defined number of observations required to sign a player. If we have doubts about his qualities/abilities and mental structure, then we will probably need more observations. However, more important than the number of observations is to define that they will be performed by different people (especially in professional soccer) and in different moments, decreasing the probability of making any mistakes.

When we have different observers scouting the same player, we have more people evaluating him; one observer can be conditioned by different factors, such as: not liking that type of player, not being sufficiently focused on the observation, being subjected to some kind of external pressure (players’ agent, time, urgency of the signing, etc) or simply by judging error. Regarding the different moments, it is important that the observation be carried out in different contexts: in training, in competition both at home and away, in different moments of the season (or even in different seasons, since some clubs can follow a player for long periods, especially when they are young), with heat or rain, in fields in good and bad conditions, and when facing good clubs and more accessible ones.

When we look at the national clubs which primarily need to sign young players with a high learning potential and progression, not only to help the club with their quality but to also open the possibility of being a financial gain for the club in a future transaction, we understand that this planning will only be possible when we look for the long term. However, there are a few exceptions: in certain moments and with certain players (less and less today), we must act quickly because the competition is fierce and these players leave little doubts as to their quality.

It is an absolute error to sign a player only considering the video observations since even the worst players can look amazing in a video. Don’t get me wrong; the video is very important but it should be used as the first step in a process consisting of several steps, with the aim of identifying players for a future live observation! Anyway, the videos should contain the whole matches (and not just the best moments) and would be filmed from a higher plane (providing a global perspective). As an example, I’ve watched many videos where a player would execute a pass and the image was cut off without being able to see the outcome of it…draw your conclusions!

Rui Oliveira