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It’s been a strange old career for Ivan ‘Pachu’ Martinez so far. Having come through the Elche academy as a young player, Pachu has since played in the Spanish Lower Leagues, with Valdres FK & Gjovik-Lyn in Norway and most recently with Selfoss in the Icelandic second tier.
Alongside his playing duties at Selfoss, Pachu has taken on the role of ‘Head of recruitment and scouting’ which sees him cast his eye over the many young talents Scandinavia has to offer in the hope of attracting them to his current employers. With many Norwegian Topfotball teams struggling to attract top scouts and talents to their side, I spoke with Pachu about his current role as well as listening to his thoughts on Scandinavian football in general.
Ben: ‘Tell me about your early life… Were you always interested in playing football & being around football clubs when you were growing up?’
Pachu: ‘Yes, I was always playing football at school, in the park after school and at training sessions. My parents had to push me a lot to do the school homework before the training sessios or going out to play football. I was going to Elches’ stadium every other weekend and I wanted to become an Elche player in the future.’
Ben: ‘You did eventually play for the Elche youth team, but then moved to various clubs in the Spanish lower divisions. How did your move to Valdres FK in Norway come about?
Pachu: ‘The move came in a moment when I was very unmotivated. I was finishing my journalism degree at the University and after I left Elche CF I didn’t have as many opportunities to play at a higher level than I thought i would, so at that moment I was just thinking more about finshing my degree than playing football. Then an agent that I was in contact with called me and he asked if I wanted to go to Valdres. I did not think much, I just talked to the club I was playing for about the move and then after two days I was in Norway.’
Ben: ‘How long would you say it took you to adapt to Norwegian football following your move from Spain?’
Pachu: ‘The first months were quite hard because the day I left my city it was 20 degrees and in Fagernes when i arrived it was -18… That was the hardest part. About football, I would say it took me around one year. Norwegian football has a lot more transitions and the Norwegian players most of the time simply think of how to score or create chances when they are on the ball.
I was used to a style where we would try to dominate the possession of the ball, not just for being offensive, but also to avoid being attacked ourselves. So it took me a while to be like one of them and be more aggressive against the goal when I had the ball. In addition, It helped me a lot that I started to learn Norwegian from the first day.’
Ben: ‘As someone who has played in both Spain and Norway now, how would you say Norwegians could learn from the Spanish in terms of developing the game of football in the country?’
Pachu: ‘It’s not easy to say because we have different ways of understanding football and I think it would be impossible to take one way of working to the other place. The society in general think different too, not only the football people.
But I had noticed that in Spain we work more with the players making them understand how their performance can make his team better which will make him better too as an individual. We work a lot on real match situations in training just to make the player understand what he can do in situations that he will find in the game or at least giving him some ideas of what he can do. Guiding him and at the same time he improves as an individual.
In Norway (And in Iceland) I felt that most of the time they work to improve the skills of the player with drills that are designed to build the individual abilities, but difficult to transfer to a match. I have seen many players training for many hours at Gjøvik’s stadium, for example, but they train against zero, against nobody, in a situation that they will unlikely have in a game. They build their skills and their technique but when it comes a real game, most of the time they can’t use what they have learned because they are not used to having opponents, then they lose the ball or make mistakes and then come the transitions. That’s why I think the style of football is like this in Norway.’
Ben: ‘You have since moved to Iceland to join second tier side Selfoss and there you have also taken on the role of ‘Head of scouting & recruitment’. What drew you to this role?
Pachu: ‘I have been interested in scouting and recruitment all my life. For me the feeling to discover a new talent early and predict that this player is going to become really good is as good as to score a goal in the extra time. Last year I spent three months in Madrid after my last season in Norway. I was getting the license to become the Head of Scouting and Recruitment and I could see the work of people like Monchi (Former Sevilla sports director), Victor Orta (Middlesbrough’s Head of Recruitment) or Francis Cagigao (Arsenal’s Head of International Recruitment) and then I became 100% sure that this was I wanted to do after my career as a football player. We have talked about this in Selfoss many times during my first season here as a player and we decided to add a department of scouting and recruitment now.
Ben: ‘How important are tools such as Wyscout for a club of Selfoss’ size to identify talented players?’
Pachu: ‘I would say it’s very important. Here in Selfoss we are using Wyscout and that’s essential. We don’t have the resources to travel abroad to see players or to hire full-time scouts but we do travel around Iceland as much as we can to see as much live football as possible. But we do have to spend a lot of time with Wyscout and it’s also very important that they offer us lower league games like fourth level in Spain, some in third level in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. It’s vital for us.’
Ben: ‘I see you have written some articles on the top young Scandinavian players, so who in your opinion would make the top 5?’
Pachu: ‘It is difficult to mention only 5. I love Sander Berge (Genk), Sead Haksabanovic (Halmstad), Kasper Dollberg (Ajax), Emre Mor and Alexander Isak (Borussia Dortmund). I think they are in good clubs to develop in the right way to become big players. I would not like either to forget about younger less mainstream players such as Niklas Nartey or Mads Bistrup (Kobenhavn), Asoro (Sunderland) or Tobias Svendsen (Molde). I love Tobias but I think that Scandinavian football does not benefit him to show all his potential. I could mention more but those are my favorites.’
Ben: ‘So when you are looking to identify a player, aside from on-pitch attributes what other traits would attract you to a player?’
Pachu: ‘It depends of the club you work for, the personality of the coach and the players you have. You need to have many things in mind. For example for Selfoss, when it’s about a foreign player, it’s really important that he talks English and that he had being playing and/or living in a small place like Selfoss because here there are around 7000 people and there’s not much to do though we have Reykjavik quite near.
We also check to see if it is his first time away from home and if it’s possible that he had been in cold countries, so that then he can adapt faster. Also, personally, it’s important that he has been in a good football youth academy where he could learn many different concepts and have a football brain. Obviously, no way of working is error-free and you will make mistakes signing players but you just have to try to reduce the probabilities of failing as much as you can. The most important is to believe in the process. I believe that following a project like this, adapted to the conditions of where you are, you will success more than failure.’
Ben: ‘Scouting in Norway is a pretty hot topic right now with a lot being written around it. What is your take on how Norwegian clubs currently go about their business?’
Pachu: ‘Scouting is more and more important everyday in every country. I understand personally that scouting is a crucial part of any success in a club. We could mention many clubs like Sevilla, Villarreal or Celta Vigo that with low budgets they were able to get good players and sold them after their great performances. Scouting does not only help in the sporting results, it could be a really big source of income. I am really happy that the job of Thomas Bertnsen is being a success with Sarpsborg 08 in Norway. Then everybody in the country will know more about it and give it more importance to it. Scouting can help a small club to fight as a bigger one and achieve beyond their means.’
Ben: ‘Finally, in terms of your own long term future, do you see yourself taking on this role as a scout full time once your playing career ends?’
Pachu: ‘Yes, I would love to. I was close couple of times but I still have the energy and the will to play and train hard as a footballer. I scout more than 50 games every month and I see football now with a scouts point of view. I am focused on the player’s skills and not in the tactics. This time in Selfoss will help me to learn, broaden my network and my knowledge about the Scandinavian market and then be ready to move into this role whenever the day comes that I do not play football anymore.’
Thanks to Pachu for taking the time to talk to us, you can follow his work with Selfoss via his Twitter account here.