Following up on our exclusive story on Manchester United identifying Juventus chief scout Matteo Tognozzi as a potential candidate to become the club’s first ever sporting director, we are going to look at the 33-year-old Italian’s credentials and why the club need to appoint someone for the role.
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward first suggested the club were looking to appoint a sporting director publicly back in August 2018 whilst Jose Mourinho was in charge of the Red Devils, as per The Guardian. Despite it being 30 months since the prospect of a new addition to the footballing structure at Old Trafford no appointment has been made by the club. United have been heavily linked with names such as Luis Campos, Paul Mitchell and Marcel Brands for the potential role with the trio developing an unerring reputation for their astute transfer knowledge in European football.
Executive vice-chairman Woodward has been heavily criticised for his disastrous dealings in the transfer market since replacing chief executive David Gill in 2013. The club have spent roughly £850 million on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and Woodward is now on his fourth managerial appointment in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Woodward has been hailed as a commercial genius for his excellent dealings in landing the club world record shirt sponsorship deals, signing lucrative sponsorship deals with noodle companies and growing Manchester United into a worldwide commercial brand. However, it is evident he struggles from a football perspective with the club overpaying for numerous players whilst also being publicly rejected for other less prestigious clubs.
Primary transfer targets Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham publicly chose Borussia Dortmund over Manchester United which was a major blow to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer transfer plans for his squad.
The Red Devils urgently need a respected sporting director within European football with the relevant knowledge of players and the connections to help with negotiations with clubs. The importance of the role of sporting director in modern football cannot be underestimated with every top European club boasting some of the biggest names. It is essential executive vice-chairman Woodward finally appoints a renowned sporting director to work on the club’s transfer strategy with current manager Solskjaer as United continue to overhaul their expensively assembled squad. Things have improved at the club since Solskjaer’s arrival. His plan is apparent but without significant change within the club structure and without proper financial backing from the board the failure to compete for silverware at the Theatre of Dreams will continue. The club have identified Juventus chief scout Matteo Tognozzi as a potential candidate to become the club’s first ever sporting director. However, Goal stated that he has also caught the attention of Celtic who are currently looking for a new sporting director following Peter Lawwell’s announcement he will be leaving the club at the end of the season .
Who is Matteo Tognozzi?
Matteo Tognozzi grew up in Pisa in Italy’s Tuscany region attending the local public school Liceo Scientifico Buonarroti. Tognozzi was immersed in football from an early age mainly due to his father Stefano bringing him along to games as a child whilst working as assistant coach to Luciano Spalletti at Empoli. Empoli gained promotion to Serie A during his time at the club before he changed role into talent scout for the 1998/99 season. Matteo showed his pedigree to become a scout from an early age as he analysed and recommended players to his father whilst attending matches with him. Stefano played professionally briefly in the third and fourth Italian divisions for Torino Calcio in the 1970’s before transitioning into professional coaching and talent scouting upon retirement.
Upon completion of high school in 2006 Matteo enrolled in the local University di Pisa to study foreign languages and literature. However, after one year he decided to pursue a career in football and follow in his old man’s footsteps and put his studies on hold. Stefano was appointed manager of Pontedera, a regional based side in Tuscany in 2007 and he immediately appointed his 20-year-old son Matteo as sporting director for the Serie D side. According to local newspaper Il Tirreno Pontedera Stefano convinced him to join the club after a conversation at dinner stating “Matteo listen to me; as a player you already know that you will never reach a high level. Don’t waste time, stop and start working with me in football. You will see that you will reach levels that as a player are unapproachable for you”. The youngster impressed in his role at Pontedera and showed his ability to identify talented non scouted players within the lower leagues of Italian football. Pontedera narrowly missed out on promotion during Stefano’s two years at the club finishing third and second in Girone E division of Serie D. Stefano stepped down as manager of Pontedera in 2009 after failing to gain promotion and joined AS Roma as a talent scout. Matteo continued in Tuscany until the latter stages of 2010 in Pontedera when the club was going bankrupt and all the players wanted to leave because they did not receive wages. Tognozzi tried his best under difficult circumstances working with respected coach Marco Masi before deciding to leave Pontedera as the club continued to slip into financial uncertainty.
Tognozzi worked briefly with Rosignano in Italian’s football fifth tier as sporting director in 2010 whilst continuing to study at University di Pisa for his foreign language and literature degree part time. Meanwhile his father Stefano had linked up with Luciano Spalletti in Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg in 2011 as a talent scout. Spalletti had been at the club since 2009 and won the Russian Premier League in 2010 before Stefano joined the club in a scouting position. The young Matteo had left a lasting impression on Spalletti from their Empoli days and he decided to give the 23-year-old novice the opportunity to work with his father in Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg. Tognozzi joined the Russian giants in January 2011 as an international football scout; he worked closely identifying signings such as Italian left back Domenico Criscito from Genoa, Brazilian international Hulk and Axel Witsel from Benfica. Following Luciano Spalletti’s sacking as Zenit manager and his father Stefano’s departure from the club in March 2014, Tognozzi continued to work until the end of the season.
After a successful three years in Russia, Tognozzi linked up with his father Stefano in Germany with Bundesliga side HSV Hamburg. He worked as an international scout under four managers in one full season as the club narrowly avoided relegation via play-offs. Perhaps the highlight of Tognozzi’s time in at “Die Rothosen” was scouting, identifying and discovering Germany u-21 defensive midfielder Gideon Jung who became a key player for the first team. Tognozzi was on the move again in the summer of 2015 joining Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Leverkusen in the same role as an international scout. The Italian worked closely with the scouting network and manager Roger Schmidt to identify potential transfer targets as the club aimed to overhaul their squad. Tognozzi was responsible for identifying promising players Leverkusen signed such as; centre half Jonathan Tah and Jamaican winger Leon Bailey from Belgian side Genk. Bailey joined Leverkusen in January 2017 for a fee of £17 million despite strong interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. He has since developed into one of the most exciting wingers in the Bundesliga and has been heavily linked with a big money move to an array of European clubs.
After a successful two years in Germany with Bayern Leverkusen Tognozzi was developing quite the reputation as a highly respected scout within European football. Italian giants Juventus approached Tognozzi in 2017 and he returned back to his homeland after seven years working in Europe gaining valuable experience in Russia and Germany. He was appointed by the “Old Lady” as a scouting supervisor when he arrived at the club with the role of identifying possible Juventus players in the 14-21 age groups that he saw potential in and that required additional attention to aid their overall development. Tognozzi’s eye for detail and ability to scout players immediately impressed Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici who promoted him to the position of scouting manager after less than a year at the club. Considering Paratici’s close relationship with Tognozzi he will be one of the main men trusted with rebuilding the “Old Lady” as they have showcased this season under failing manager Andrea Pirlo a major squad rebuild is needed. He is clearly held in high regard in Turin and it would be interesting to see if the lure of Manchester United has the attraction to pull him away from North Italy where he is respected and valued by Italian footballs most respected names.