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Chelsea, AS Roma holding talks with Lille sporting director Luis Campos — report

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Long overdue

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Photo by Anthony Dibon / Icon Sport via Getty Images

Ever since Michael Emenalo relinquished his six-year tenure as Chelsea’s Director of Football in November 2017, the position has remained vacant. Abramovich second in command Marina Granovskaia has been steering the ship, both from a financial as well as a sporting perspective, to mixed reviews. Most would agree that installing an actual Director of Football to handle footballing and scouting matters, allowing Granovskaia to revert back to overseeing the financial side of the business, would be a good move.

This has been deemed even more crucial with the impending two-window transfer ban coming down on the club and FIFA’s new planned regulations to curb down on “loan armies”. Those two issues would already require the full attention and resources of a sporting director, and that’s before any new regulations get implemented on the home front, such as the FA trying to reduce the number of non-homegrown players in Premier League — just a hypothesis at this point but something we need to keep a keen eye on.

Chelsea have been tenuously linked with a number of candidates for the role, from ex-players Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti (the latter since ruled out) to more experienced names like Marcel Brands (who moved to Everton) and Monchi (who went to Rome, then returned to Sevilla). The strongest rumors have been about just one man: Lille OSC’s Luis Campos.

Campos, who is highly regarded in the footballing world, had a few managerial stints in Portugal before moving to Real Madrid as a scout in 2012. He moved to Monaco a year later, staying for four years and building a young team that captured people’s imaginations and transfer budgets — including Chelsea with Tiemoue Bakayoko — by reaching the Champions League semifinals and winning the French league. Campos left in 2017, joining his good friend Gerard Lopez’s Lille.

After a disappointing season last year, when they avoided relegation by a whisker, Lille have performed much better this season, rising up as the best of the rest after PSG. Rafael Leao and Thiago Mendes have been excellent signings under the Campos regime, while Nicolas Pepe’s acquisition can only be called a masterstroke. Campos was also responsible for bringing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, James Rodriguez, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and many others to Monaco. His track record as director of football is one of the most impressive around.

“Not everyone can be a good football player, nor a good doctor or engineer. So not everyone can have this ability to identify good players who are able to join and form a good team. What they know about Monaco is a complex process that comes not just from the choice of good players, but also from our ability to predict who will interact well with who. It’s like forming a jigsaw puzzle. The right pieces, in the right places.”

-Luis Campos; May 2017

While any rumors thus far regarding Luis Campos have been met by firm denials from Lille, the latest claims talk of behind the scenes negotiations with Chelsea and Roma (the latter said to be in the lead at the moment), with Campos apparently ready to leave in the summer. The €3m release clause in his contract is unlikely to deter any suitors.

Luis Campos is one of the very best at scouting talents and he has worked with many notable managers from Jose Mourinho to Leonardo Jardim to Marcelo Bielsa in giving a certain direction and providing a philosophy to a club while building a squad. Both of those aspects are things which are desperately needed at Stamford Bridge.

“I think most English clubs do not know how to recruit for an issue that I almost think is cultural as almost everyone makes the same mistake. English clubs really, really like top attacking players, yet to a large extent make them play alongside medium-quality defences. And that, in my opinion, explains their relative lack of success in European competitions despite them spending exorbitant sums in recent years. Successfully building a good team project always involves the ability of players to relate and ‘match’ to each other. In the Premier League there is a big difference between great talents, and the medium quality of support for the same offensive talent. Most teams lack great defenders, and defensive midfielders.”

-Luis Campos; May 2017