Spotlight: Interview with Gustavo Grossi, Sports Director at River Plate

Spotlight: Interview with Gustavo Grossi, Sports Director at River Plate
In this week’s Soccerex spotlight, we interview Gustavo Grossi, Sports Director at Club Atlético River Plate (CARP), a world-renowned club for their first team success but also for having developed a long list of extremely talented players from Alfredo Di Stefano to more recent examples such as Pablo Aimar, Javier Mascherano and Radamel Falcao.

  1. Hi Gustavo, thank you for your time today. You are currently working with River Plate as Sports Director. Can you tell us more about your role and what it means to be part of Los Millonarios?

My role as Sports Director is the management of the CARP Integral Project; supervising the selection, training methods and all multidisciplinary areas that allow for the integration of young talents into the first team in the mid and long terms.

This is always based on the profile of footballers that River identifies and develops, staying at the forefront of South American Football, which in the course of history has made us the club with the highest number of players in European leagues and the National Teams of Argentina in all seasons.

  1. You have worked in the football industry for more than 20 years. Although your area of expertise is football management, your first roles in the industry were in media. How was your experience in football media and your transition into football management?

Talent management is the priority for the football industry and we work to develop all aspects of talent. I believe that we need top players that thrill the public with their talent and give many others the opportunity to become professionals in this industry.

Knowing how the industry works allows me to identify the type of profile a soccer player needs to have and which skills need to be developed to succeed at River Plate and later be transferred to leagues with greater economic resources than the ones in South American. This provides an income that is valuable to my club and we are able to contribute to the development of the game at a global scale.

  1. A big part of your work is related to talent development. How has football talent changed since the beginning of the 21st century? What would you define as talent and what skills are scouts and clubs looking for in young players today?

Talent is that young person who uses his abilities with intelligence and effectiveness. From there genetics, the ability to read the game and society play a part and define the biotype of the player.

In this part of the world, a soccer player is always born in humble and marginal areas. America has the mix of Latinos, Europeans and Africans which means soccer talent is in their blood, evidenced by the fact that gives since the 1920s every best player in the world has been born in South America.

  1. Which clubs, leagues and federations do you think are doing a good job to develop talent in football?

Uruguay is the only country in the world that always players with the possibility to be World Champions at youth and senior levels despite only having three million inhabitants, while by genetics and population density Brazil is the world power of this game evidenced by its 5 World Cups.

  1. You have experience working in multiple Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Paraguay. What are the main similarities and differences in the way football is developing in these countries?

Argentina is the most professionalized and competitive league I have worked in. It is the best platform for South American players to reach European football and for European clubs to find talented players and invest in them knowing that, in most case, players will adapt well to their competitive leagues.

  1. You have also been a speaker in multiple occasions in Europe at federations and universities. How do you feel the industry differs between Europe and Latin America? How can both regions learn from each other?

The social and economic differences are very big, centuries apart. I believe that South America will evolve towards the levels of professionalization of football in Europe while Europeans look for talent in South America because players will continue to rise in the region due to their way of living and the mix of training, education and politics.

As a coach, you can learn things and adapt them to your methodology but not copy a complete model because it is not viable to be successful without adapting to the cultural and historical background of the country and the club where the projects are developed.

  1. Going back to the case of River Plate, the club is known worldwide for consistently developing talented players. Which is the formula that has made this happen generation after generation?

River has a clear footballer profile that is based on detailed individual technique, being offensive in all positions and playing an associative game that seeks the opponent’s goal and victory continuously. We are a club that manages the type of talent that Europe seeks to export due to genetics and elegant game style that they want to bring to the show.

  1. In countries such as Argentina and Brazil, football is followed like a religion with the rivalry between the two nations being one of the fiercest in football history. In this context, there has not been much exchange of talent between the two countries whether it was at playing or coaching level. Yet, you became the first Argentinean coach to speak at the CBF (Confederaçao Brasileira de Futebol). How was your experience and what do you feel is the potential for future collaborations?

I think that Argentina has to find a solution for this. Brazilian players and several ideas of their way of playing could be a great contribution to our league. Right now, River is the only club that has a Brazilian player. He is the top scorer of our sub 20 team and we are interested in being pioneers in the integration of international young players from an early age in search for the best formula. If Brazil and Argentina manage to work together, their football power could be almost unmatched. There are political decisions from FAs that do not depend on my conclusions made in my transit through both countries.

  1. Finally, you will be joining us at Soccerex USA in Miami in a city that will have a MLS club in 2020 and in a country that will be co-hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026. How do you see football (soccer) evolving in the US and what do you expect from the convention?

The United States have a unique way of doing things and there has been a clear evolution with well differentiated stages. First, they invested in infrastructures for a decade. Then, they invested in high-end technical bodies with soccer stars that promote football as an integral show. And now, they are purchasing some of the best young talents in South America to strengthen the overall level of the game in their top leagues.

Surely, when developing the national youth development plan, the fact that there are several millions of Latinos born in the country in the past thirty years is something that US soccer federations, leagues and will factor in. This very same factor, combined with the other developments aforementioned, will make the MLS one of the best leagues in the world.

US rights holders have the great virtue of being patient and they have clearly defined goals and timelines which make things happen in a consolidated way.

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