In the space of a week, Aston Villa have removed, and replaced Jesus Garcia Pitarch with Johan Lange.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Notoriously, Aston Villa have always seemed slow-off-the-bat when it comes to making internal decisions, and these decisions often curtail other parts of the club.
That has not been the case this time however, as since Aston Villa’s last-gasp survival with a draw against West Ham United on Sunday, the club has said goodbye to departing Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch – otherwise known as Suso – and replaced him with FC København’s Technical Director Johan Lange.
Lange is well known amongst the ‘smaller’ league in Europe, and may be known by many in the United Kingdom as the man who assisted Stale Solbakken in his failed revival of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 40-year-old has been Technical Director at København (Copenhagen) for six years and has overseen a number of ‘transfer triumphs’, with the club being well-known for finding value in the market and one of Europe’s ‘sustainable’ success stories.
There are examples of his work that are plain to see – the sale of Denis Vavro to Lazio for £9,500,000 and Robert Skov to Hoffenheim for £9,000,000 when both had been purchased for fractions of that amount. There’s also Robin Olsen to Roma, picked up for £600,000 and sold for £8,100,000, and Jesse Joronen, who in the space of a season picked up FC København a chunky £3,700,000 profit.
Speaking on FC København, Lange has been keen to pick out the key principles that have seen them pick up their success:
“We have a strong culture, a proactive strategy, stability amongst key personnel and a very clear style of play.”
It will be different, at Aston Villa however. For years, Lange has been picking up talent – allowing them to win trophies, play European football and test themselves, before going through a development process and being sold to a club in one of the top-five leagues. Whilst it will be the case with some players, as it was with the memo of transfers last summer, “re-sale value” isn’t always going to work for the Midlands giants.
The key from Lange’s time at FC København should be this quote, when he was explaining the clubs process to Sky Sports.
“We are not in a position to sign ten players every summer. We have chosen to sign you. We have scouted you for a long time. You are the one. This partnership will have ups and downs but we are committed to it, because if it goes wrong it is not only bad for your career, but it is bad for our club.”Johan Lange, speaking to Sky Sports about Copenhagen.
With Lange’s appointment, there are key things to come from the statement that Wesley Edens and Nassef Sawiris have put out. They state that they will not be satisfied until they have ‘brought sustainable success to Aston Villa at the top tier of European football’. Ambition, check.
They also state that they have made significant strides in building an organisation and culture that will sustain success, whilst also mentioning the success of the Women’s team after their investments last summer.
Within the statement, they said that:
“It is a great opportunity to improve our football operations. We’re excited to work directly with Johan and the team to strengthen our analytics, sports science, talent recruitment and player development programmes.”
“We are incredibly optimistic about the future of Aston Villa and remain committed to further invest in the Club’s success.”
And Johan, upon his appointment, stated that the club is ‘progressive’ and ‘looking to the future’ – which bodes well.
It’s unsure whether Lange’s remit will remain the same, sustainable success in buying low and selling high, or whether it will change slightly with the money available from Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris.
Either way, he’s got a track record of success – so it looks like this appointment might be a good one.