European Methods on an Argentine League Budget

European Methods on an Argentine League Budget

Racing has always had a reputation for youth development — the club is known, in Argentina, as La Academia and that remains central to Milito’s plan. In his office at the academy, Huerta keeps a map of all the areas of Argentina where he has searched for talent.

There has never been any shortage of that, of course — “Switzerland knows how to make watches, and we make players,” the grizzled academy director Miguel Gomis said — but there is a belief, too, that it can be done more effectively, more reliably.

“We do not see the mistakes we make because no matter how badly we do things, players come through,” Gomis said.

There is a focus, now, not on “training talent” — the endless slew of creative, attacking players that Argentina is famous for — but on “positions of concept,” the more defensive, more cerebral roles. “We want to create the players that Racing needs,” said Claudio Úbeda, a coach at the academy. “But also the players that Europe wants.”

Racing is looking further afield than any of its rivals for that raw material. It is, Huerta said, often the only Argentine team that sends scouts to international youth tournaments. It has started to recruit players from Colombia, Peru and Venezuela.

Just as significant, it has “formalized,” as Weiner put it, the other end of the process. “I remember seeing a couple of tall, blond guys in the crowd at one game,” Weiner said. “It turned out they were scouts from F.C. Copenhagen, in Denmark. There was nobody to help them get tickets to watch a player, so they just ended up behind the goal. We have changed that now.”

So new that there remains some suspicion about it. The concept of scouting remains alien to some. Huerta is regularly asked by colleagues from other teams why he is bothering to watch lower tier games or follow players from Venezuela. There are skeptics within the club, too; Milito’s revolution has not been entirely peaceful. Change does not come easily, even with such a potent figurehead. The team he has built, though, has the courage of its convictions. Racing can see the future; or its own, homemade version of it, at least.

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