How Aberdeen will recruit: Top Serie A club talks, £200m 'transfer wizard', 2500 players & Europe focus
This summer is set to be an important and potentially defining one for Aberdeen Football Club on the pitch and in the transfer market.
Significant work has been taking place behind the scenes at Pittodrie since the start of the season and more recently with regards to identifying and talking to transfer targets.
Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin wants to revamp the squad inherited when taking over from Stephen Glass in February. Such an overhaul is required to get the club back to where they want to be, challenging for trophies and closing the gap to Celtic and Rangers.
Now there is also Hearts who are set to benefit from a sizeable income from European football next season with at least eight fixtures in the Europa League and/or Conference League.
Goodwin will be working in tandem with the club’s director of football Steven Gunn and head of recruitment Darren Mowbray.
"If we look back over the last few years, our recruitment could have been better," Dons chairman Dave Cormack said in an interview on the club's YouTube channel.
"One of the reasons we put the strategy in place with Darren coming on board and putting Steven in that position is to get more structure and clarity about who we are and what we are about. Jim Goodwin has 100 per cent bought into that.
"He wants to reduce the average age of the squad. Why? Because he wants to play a pressing game. To play a pressing game you need younger players. On average younger players are able to execute that for 90 minutes.
"It's Jim’s call, working with these guys right now, to revamp the squad for next season. The investment is there in the wage bill and transfer fees we've gone through. It’s been a really, really tough season for us. The only thing we can do is dust ourselves off and make appropriate changes which we think we've done and then get ready for next season.”
One thing the club will not be doing is narrowing their scope in the transfer market to players plying their trade in Scotland and the lower reaches of English football. Mowbray has spent a lot of time travelling around Europe watching games and was influential in the signing of Vicente Besuijen in January.
In addition, the Dons have touched base with top clubs and operators in world football, including revered sporting director Monchi who, across two spells, has made Sevilla well in excess of £200million in transfer fees and is regarded as a ‘transfer wizard’.
Aberdeen are leaving no stone unturned to unearth the best talents possible from as wide a scope as possible.
Serie A, Monchi and the 2,500
Cormack explained: "One of the first things [Mowbray] has done since September last year, he’s been to Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, he's been to Holland six times or more and countries like that to give us a perspective of the quality versus the Scottish league and the players that may translate.
“If it was not for Steven Gunn, if it was not for Darren Mowbray we would not have had Vicente here. We invested half a million euros in cash in Vicente, a 20-year-old player with a significant future on a four-and-a-half year deal.
“Going back to the January window, we did have money available for a striker but there was no quality came our way and the decision was made to keep our powder dry for this summer.
“The amount of data that is available on players and coaching styles and access is incredible. I’m pretty curious as to how we improve things in Aberdeen. Steven Gunn in particular has set about talking to the top people in Europe.
"In terms of strategy, we’re currently talking to a top Serie A team because they’ve got 40 players out on loan. Not all those players are going to play for this team and there are players that won't fit the Scottish style but some players might.
"Spending time with Sevilla and their style, their approach, we can tap into the investment Monchi and these people have made by looking at the things they do well.
“Rather than just looking at England, we’ve got work going on across Europe. We’re going to be adding another full-time scout that works for Darren as well.”
He added: “For Barcelona there are maybe 30 to 50 players who can make a difference to them across the world. For us, there are about 2,500 players globally. Now that we are looking at all of that, particular Europe and Atlanta’s ability to tap into South America, we're going broad now as well as deep where we see opportunity.
“We go into this summer strongly.”
Connections and Zoom
As well as traditional scouting and data, connections play an important part. Former Dons player Steve Archibald is a sounding board for Spanish talent, while Theo Snelders has also had his role.
“There is a player we really like in Holland and this player is friends with Theo's son and the boy went to Theo's house to ask him about Aberdeen,” Cormack said. “One of the reasons we got Vicente instead of Hibs was because of our Dutch connections.
“Jim Goodwin has final say on players coming and players going. He will be working closely with Steven Gunn and Darren Mowbray. Most nights in the last few weeks they've been on Zoom calls with players, on their own, with their agents, wanting them to come to Aberdeen.
“On Zoom we are able to show them a video of Aberdeen, the training ground, a walk through of the club, the history, what we are about.
“Jim Goodwin is saying to the player, ‘not only has Darren Mowbray watched you three times in the flesh. I’ve watched five hours of a video of you as a player. These are the systems we play this is how we see you fitting in’.”
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.