July 24 – Former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo, now the Saudi Pro League’s director of football, has spoken of his new role leading the country’s Player Acquisition Centre of Excellence (PACE).
Emenalo will direct project, which aims to foster both young Saudi talent and ‘the best’ international talent.
During Emenalo’s ten-year stint at Stamford Bridge, the West-London club’s scouting, recruitment, development and loan systems were revolutionised by the Nigerian, who is credited with overseeing crucial transfers such as Ngolo Kante and Eden Hazard, as well as playing a large role in boosting the Chelsea women’s team.
Under Emenalo, the new Centre of Excellence aims to provide expertise to all the clubs in the league. “I am intrigued by the audacity of the project, and the ambition,” said Emanalo.
The SPL has put itself in the global spotlight with high profile singings like Christiano Ronaldo and 35-year-old Ballon d’or holder Karim Benzema on a three-year contract worth almost £200 million per year. The league are reportedly eyeing up PSG and France superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Emenalo said that the SPL is looking for the “opportunity to compete”.
“I can understand the sensibilities to something that is so new and so audacious in its ambition. I can understand that it creates some doubt in some people’s minds. What Saudi football is doing is no different from what the Premier League have done. There was a time when it was all about Italy. There was a time when it was all about Spain. What we’re looking for in the industry is an opportunity to compete, and to compete on an even scale and to improve upon whatever exists in the industry,” said Emanalo.
“Right now, we’re throwing out our nets as wide and as far as they can go, to make sure that we bring the best talent in the league. I think the Saudi League offers a new opportunity first and foremost for the entire industry, and I think it will create avenues for good competition and for more development of young talent.”
Emanalo praised the “knowledge” and effort that has moulded the SPL strategy and created PACE. He said: “I’ve been working with people behind the scenes for some time. I’ve been auditing the project myself, to understand it. This project has been in the making a while. It is not a spur of the moment decision, it is well thought out. I’m impressed with the knowledge and the input that’s gone into this, and I think it’s a boost for our industry as a whole.”
Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1696219202labto1696219202ofdlr1696219202owedi1696219202sni@o1696219202fni1696219202