Exclusive interview with Ricardo Moreira
Soccer Hub recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the head of player recruitment at Orlando City, Ricardo Moreira. Before he was offered his position in the MLS, Ricardo was a law graduate and was awarded an MBA in sports management. His is a success story of footballing education having learned alongside Soccer Hub’s Ricardo Balbeira during the former’s early years in the game.
His career path was an unusual one – he took the radical decision to abandon the legal side of the sport and pursue work in the scouting sector. His first role was in Brazil where he oversaw Grêmio Osasco Audax Esporte Clube’s recruitment of players. The time he spent with the São Paulo club was rich and rewarding in a different sense to his later career in the United States. In South America, Ricardo was forced to recruit “players from smaller markets in Brazil because we didn’t have the money to invest”. It was a tactic that ultimately proved successful: Moreira’s Audax punched well above their weight and finished as runners up to a talented Santos side in the Campeonato Paulista in 2016.
His recruitment talents did not go unnoticed. The now United States national team coach Gregg Berhalter, then manager of Columbus Crew, “invited me to Columbus and that’s how I started”…
Comparing the situation of his current employer to that of his initial role in Columbus, Ricardo stated that “Orlando has a natural relationship with South America” whereas “Columbus needed to build that, so I was able to help Columbus open that market”. Much like his time in Brazil, Ricardo’s stint with Columbus was a resounding success – he aided in the buying of “five to six South American players” which helped sustain a successful period for the club.
Asked about what he considers to be the greatest challenge he faced with regards to breaking into the industry, Ricardo spoke of the consistent pressures that must be managed – “you have to prove, day by day, that you are capable of doing what you are expected to do in this field”. This applies, not just in terms of evaluation by peers, but also by the fans – “because of the nature of the sport, I think that’s a big challenge”, he said.
There are other challenges, too. Finding your niche, for example. Quizzed about whether he thought scouting was still a good specialisation in terms of entering the football industry, Ricardo’s response was adamant: “for sure!”. “Scouting is the easiest door you can open in a football club,” he said, before adding “a lot of people understand and know football and soccer even without working in the industry”. This, in Ricardo’s eyes, is enough to get your foot on the first rung of the footballing ladder. Indeed, this instinctual eye for talent is something he admires greatly – “sometimes the scouts are very raw in terms of doing the reports, in terms of doing the specifics of the area – but they have an eye for talent… that’s the way to do it”.
In terms of fine details, Ricardo is able to educate us on the minutiae of scouting in the MLS. Because of the closed nature of the league “we have to be aware of almost every league in the world – our network must be much bigger than a club, let’s say, in Brazil”.
This recruitment policy leads to an interesting blend of players in the division, a feature which Ricardo remarked interestingly upon. There is, of course, a misconception that the MLS is merely a retirement home for older players who are no longer capable of competing at the highest level in Europe. This is a myth: “the average age of players in the MLS is younger”, Ricardo points out. “We bring in the Nani[s] but we bring also the Méndez[s] (the young Ecuadorian Ricardo recruited at Orlando) – the ones that come to the MLS, have a good run, and can be sold to Europe in the future”.
“We need pace, we need speed”. This is the profile of the player Ricardo says most MLS clubs are looking to sign. “Of course, technically, to play in small places, to be able to deal with this high pace is also really important”, he added. This is one sign that the MLS as a league is improving rapidly in quality.
Ricardo’s parting wisdom was to suggest that aspiring coaches and scouts “try to see the game in a different picture”. These are wise words and something that is absolutely essential to anyone who is looking to pursue a career in the beautiful game.
Here is the full interview: