Mario Husillos: The Man Who Stopped The Circus

Appointed as the club’s Director of Football in June 2018, Mario Husillos deserves immense credit for his role in revolutionising the way West Ham United operate in the transfer market. Since his arrival, the 60-year-old has played a pivotal role in transforming the way business is conducted – for the better.

Under the Argentine’s guidance, alongside close-friend Manuel Pellegrini, the club is gradually erasing its poor reputation when it comes to negotiations, transitioning from a laughing-stock into a serious customer. If you are not aware of Husillos’ impact, then it is a sign of the positive change that has taken place. However, it is equally important he receives the recognition he deserves.

 

STOPPING THE CIRCUS

“This club ain’t run like a circus anymore, it’s run like a proper football club.” Mark Noble (2016)

While West Ham captain Mark Noble holds a special place in the hearts of many Hammers fans, it is undeniable that some of the comments made by the captain during his emotional ‘Farewell Boleyn’ speech were premature to say the least.

In the seasons following our highly-controversial stadium move, there have been more than enough moments to create a ‘banter era’ Twitter thread, not forgetting the skipper’s own clash with a pitch invader during a chaotic 3-0 home defeat to Burnley.

In particular, some of David Gold and David Sullivan’s activities in the transfer market, prior to the Summer of 2018, indicate that Noble jumped the gun with his remarks regarding how the club is run. One particular high-profile incident occurred in September 2018 when Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho labelled Gold & Sullivan the “Dildo Brothers”, following the failed attempts to bring William Carvalho to east London.

The unsuccessful negotiations with the Portuguese club epitomised everything wrong with the way in which the club previously attempted to make acquisitions. The saga was widely-reported in the media, mainly due to the fact that Sullivan’s emails were ‘leaked’. To add further embarrassment, the messages included details of terms that were dependent upon West Ham’s unlikely qualification for the Champions League. A clearly insufficient deal, and to make matters worse, right in the public-eye.

Although it is not completely clear whether the highly-publicised interaction with the Sporting President forced the West Ham hierarchy into action, it is no coincidence the appointment of the experienced and well-respected Husillos was made less than a year later.

 

THE HUSILLOS REVOLUTION

Husillos arrived in east London following Pellegrini’s insistence, and it was clear that the Chilean didn’t only request the appointment due to the pair’s friendship from the three years they spent together at Malaga. His track record speaks for itself, and following the questionable business conducted in the years immediately after the move to London Stadium, the decision was a no-brainer.

During his time as a sporting director in Southern Spain, Husillos was involved in the recruitment process that brought Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz, Nacho Monreal, Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and most notably Isco to Malaga. Importantly, significant profits were made overall when the players eventually moved on to pastures new; for example, Isco was sold to Real Madrid for approximately £27m, despite signing him for just over £5m two seasons earlier.

In addition to the impressive recruitment skills shown, Husillos also impressed due to the close relation he formed with the Spanish club’s academy, establishing a clear pathway and consistently looking to promote players to the first team. This has also been the case during Pellegrini’s reign at West Ham, with the manger expressing on several occasions that he holds the academy in high-regard.

Through intelligent signings and by making the most of the academy talent available, Malaga reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the 2012/13 season after topping their group – a very impressive accomplishment for the club considering it was the first time that they had ever participated in the European competition.

The only blot on Husillos’ time at Malaga occurred during the last of his three spells as a ‘transfer guru’ at the club. He was unable to help keep the struggling side in La Liga, despite being given freedom during the January transfer window, and the club were relegated in 2018 following 10 consecutive seasons in the Spanish top-flight.

Husillos joined West Ham shortly after, and SuGo’s decision to introduce a Director of Football ahead of the 2018/19 season has paid dividends, so far. Fans have welcomed the youthful, exciting signings made in recent transfer windows, a far-cry from past deals for players at the end of their careers; the likes of Patrice Evra and Alvaro Arbeloa spring to mind.

 

IMPACT SO FAR

The masterstroke pulled off by Husillos in acquiring Pablo Fornals from Villarreal for just £24m is the most recent transfer that demonstrates the Argentine’s shrewd business acumen. While it is clear that the partnership between the manager and the Director of Football has allowed the Hammers to attract a higher calibre of player, the deal also reflects how the club have changed their entire approach in the transfer market.

Firstly, it appears that we are now beginning to target younger players who have potential to develop in the future. The three largest sums spent in recent seasons have been £34.2m on Felipe Anderson who is in his prime at 26, £22.5m on Issa Diop who is 22 and £24m on Pablo Fornals who is only 23.

As previously mentioned, this is a stark contrast to acquisitions made prior to Pellegrini and Husillos, where we gave lucrative contracts to players on the verge of retiring. This is a sure sign that both are integral to the long-term project of the club as they have been fully backed by the board to build a team that is able to compete in the present, but will be even stronger in the future.

Furthermore, the signing of a creative playmaker in Fornals also shows that we are bringing players to the club who match the style that the manager is keen to implement; possession-based, attacking football. The Spaniard joins the likes of Manuel Lanzini, Jack Wilshere, Diop, Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko, all who area confident and assured on the ball.

This a welcomed change following reigns under both Slaven Bilic and David Moyes, both of whom were criticised for their failure to create a team that played with a clear identity.

Finally, the fact that we are targeting those who are highly sought-after by some of Europe’s top clubs shows that the scouting system has improved. Fornals is rumoured to have attracted the attention of the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, and we had to compete with some big clubs to secure the signatures of both Diop and Anderson.

Karen Brady has spoken of the system introduced by Husillos which allows us to discover some of Europe’s top talents. She said: “My club does plenty of scouting abroad and it would be a dereliction of our duty not to.

“We have a director of football (Husillos) who has set up a system which employs seven scouts in Europe.

“And I mustn’t forget our video unit, people who scan tapes of prospective footballers, delivered in hundreds every week. The attraction of football really is eye-popping.”

The impact of Husillos should not be underestimated, and being able to work alongside a world-class manager in Pellegrini has been essential to the successful recruitment so far. West Ham fans will be hoping that both remain at the club for many years to come.

By Joe Barnbrook (@JoeBarnbrook)

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