Riccardo Pecini, the man described as the “talent scout with a thousand eyes” has been hugely successful in every role he has undertaken. The Italian has been overseeing projects for over fifteen years as an international scout and, in more recent years, a technical director and head of recruitment. Whilst his father scouted for Inter, Lazio and Parma among others, famously bringing free agent Julio Cesar from Flamengo to Milan; his brother, Nicola, was also known in the Serie A spectrum for cataloguing footballers and sending his documents to Italian clubs whilst also being an agent. The successes of those close to him only served to spurn Riccardo Pecini on, a man who has achieved so much in the background for clubs who have seen great triumphs using his springboard.
Pecini started out at Fiorentina amidst testing times. Months before his arrival Fiorentina had filed for bankruptcy and, as such, the club was relegated to Serie C2 after changing its name as punishment for their severe financial troubles. Two years and two promotions later they were back in Serie A via a play-off victory. Pecini and the club knew they had to strengthen to survive and did so, the scout helping them to identify Hidetoshi Nakata, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabrizio Miccoli and Tomas Ujfalusi. Fiorentina stayed up on goal difference as Pecini boarded a plane to London, having learned his trade in the most pressured of environments.
At Tottenham Hotspur and in the United Kingdom Pecini found the quality of youth football impressive but the finances not quite matching, “The current rules allow certain deals, but Tottenham were offering the minimum, a bit higher than the Italians, but nothing great.” Pecini was placed in charge of international scouting again but focused mainly on Southern Europe and the Balkans for his three years in the English Capital; Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka were signed as Pecini matched the clubs record transfer fee with confidence.
A return to Italy with Sampdoria was to be short lived but eventful nonetheless. His first season saw the club finish fourth but the following season saw an eventual relegation, Sampdoria not adapting well to Champions League football and the loss of both Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano to Inter and Milan respectively. Their relegation to Serie B however allowed more time for the development of Simone Zaza and for Mauro Icardi to join the first team, both forwards signed by Pecini for the Primavera. A year long spell with Milan after this relegation was just a stepping stone as Riccardo Pecini called upon an old friend Tor-Kristian Karlsen, then managing director of Monaco in the French second division.
Monaco had just been introduced to Dmitry Rybolovlev’s billions and Claudio Ranieri was leading the charge back up to Ligue 1. Pecini was given more responsibility than ever, managing the training centre and conversing with the medical staff and board of directors. Pecini was the head of 12 scouts based in South America, Eastern Europe and France; paving the way for Monaco who still operate in this style. Radamel Falcao was a big name but Geoffrey Kondogbia and Kylian Mbappe were shrewd signings that Monaco turned into performance and profit. On Mbappe, Pecini said “We took him to the youth, we paid a small sum to overcome PSG and Inter.” Despite leaving in 2014 Monaco went on to win the league in 2017 using the same principles of scouting he helped to instil.
Pecini’s Monegasque achievements were noticed at an old club. When Massimo Ferrero bought Sampdoria in June 2014 he had a clear vision for the future of the club and who he wanted to drive his project forward. Antonio Rai, Carlo Osti and Riccardo Pecini were all persuaded by his enigmatic charm and signed up for life in Genoa. The plan was set out early on, a business model similar to Udinese’s ‘scout well, buy low, sell high’. Pecini had operated in this regard before at Monaco and Sampdoria previously, more than understanding the task at hand; “We must understand the context in which we must operate. Our search perspective is to build a team composed mostly by young people who can develop and secure a future in both sports and economical aspects.” The job of identifying talent, developing them and selling them whilst not losing the balance of the team and whilst continually driving the club forward is possibly the toughest in football but Pecini excels, citing Empoli as an example who have had Skorupski, Hysaj, Tonelli, Rugani, Rui, Paredes, Saponara, Zielinski and Maurizio Sarri in recent years despite relegation last season.
Pecini worked quickly signing and replacing with swift ease and, despite fan concerns, constantly improving the side. In the summer Sampdoria lost key members in the form of Bruno Fernandes, Patrik Schick, Milan Skriniar and Luis Muriel but many see them stronger this season than last. Just as Obiang, Correa, Eder, Soriano and Gabbiadinni before them, Pecini had replaced with young quality who quickly made fans forget past heroes and made board members rub their hands as profit rolled in.
Despite a thriving scouting network Pecini still travels hundreds of miles to follow dozens of games every week across all levels of football and is seeking further advancements, wanting to use Africa as a scouting resource and broaden his psychological horizons to get into the heads of those he identifies.
In June of this year De Laurentiis, the Napoli chairman with a new focus on youth, wanted to poach Pecini from Sampdoria but Pecini for now has stood firm. Icardi, Mbappe and Schick are at the top of a long list displaying just how effective Pecini is but Calcio Mercato sum up his abilities perfectly, “Sampdoria has a true champion at home. One of the best in Italy in his role but we do not speak of Torreira, or Skriniar, or Schick. Let’s talk about who identified these players, discovered them, followed them, in collaboration with Carlo Osti, brought them to Sampdoria. We speak of course of Riccardo Pecini, the chief scout.”
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