Welcome to Vitesse, where team-wide recruitment is in the DNA
Johannes Spors has achieved his goal, at least in the short-term: turn Vitesse Arnhem into a top four club in the Netherlands.
Collaboration key to success
Vitesse finished 4th in the 2020-21 Eredivisie season, Spors’ first full campaign since joining as Sporting Director in April 2020, to secure European football.
Twenty-five players made first team appearances, and 13 different names were on the scoresheet, with on-loan strikers Armando Broja and Lois Openda heading the list with 11 and 10 goals, respectively, in all competitions.
On the pitch, the success was very much a team effort, and the story is no different off the pitch. Spors joined Vitesse just weeks before the Eredivisie shut down because of Covid-19. His first Sporting Director role and first in a new country (his career had been spent entirely in his home country Germany), Spors was quick to embrace the collective.
Reflecting on those early days, he tells TransferRoom: “I needed to know where we needed to make some changes, but also accept the things that were good. Vitesse is a very traditional club, and we found a lot of very motivated employees and very good ideas already here. “Together with my coach, Thomas Letsch, also from Germany, we could implement new ideas with the people here. With a clear playing style and clear identity, together we could recruit our team.”
For that recruitment process, Spors has a saying he often refers back to: “At Vitesse, we need to work harder and think smarter.” Explaining that theory he says: “To run a football club, for me as a Sporting Director it is never a one man show. It’s about my whole team – my Assistant, the Head of Scouting, the whole scouting team – in order to get a lot of information about players from data, from video, from scouting, but also from our network.
“Networking is very important, in the food chain of football clubs, we are with Vitesse somewhere in the middle. Luckily there are some smaller teams where we can recruit, but of course we know that there are much bigger clubs, which is positive because sometimes we can loan players and sell players and this whole circle of transfers is important for us. Get players in, get players out, and every information you can have is positive.”
Johannes Spors (r) and his assistant Marcel Klos (l): ‘Recruitment is a team game at Vitesse Arnhem’
Information is power
The necessity for fast, efficient information is why Spors, his assistant Marcel Klos and the rest of the Vitesse recruitment team have turned to TransferRoom. He adds: “We are using it a lot for networking, to receive one-on-one information first hand, and also during the transfer windows to make sure that everybody knows which players are available from us. We are open to getting information in, but it’s also important to let others know what is possible.
“TransferRoom gives us alternatives fast. Often when you pitch a player, within one or two days you get attention. It is not with every player that you can trust that agents will share the right information. It is also difficult to make sure that every market that is attractive knows about our players, and by this, very fast we get alternatives and in touch with colleagues from other clubs and can create a win-win situation.”
Spors, who began his career producing video analysis for Hoffenheim, and went onto key scouting roles at RB Leipzig and HSV Hamburg, continues: “I’ve been in the business now for quite some years working for several clubs but it is not only my network that is important, it is also that my team has the network. When my assistant and my head scout receive information, it is important for our overall success.”
Finding your place in the global picture
Loans have played a considerable role in that success for Vitesse. Openda will return for a second successive season on loan from Club Brugge in 2021-22, but Albanian international Broja has returned to Chelsea. Spors explains: “Our recruitment strategy is based on three parts. We want to make smart recruitment and get players in permanently under good conditions, like we signed Maxi Wittek [from Greuther Furth in Germany] and Dominik Oroz [from FC Liefering in Austria] in the 2021 Winter transfer window.”
“We also need to give the chance to youth players from our own academy, and in the last season we had four young Dutch players born 2002 or after, who got minutes, some of them a lot of minutes, in the Eredivisie. “Then sometimes we need quality that we cannot afford to buy in order to develop as a club and reach our sporting goals. That is why loans are so important. Of course, in the long-term the number of loan deals should be less, but we are also under budget restrictions so it helps.”
It’s not just the loan players that Spors expects to have a brief association with the club. The German official is well aware of Vitesse’s place in the football ecosystem and what that means for players’ futures.
‘Recruitment is crucial’
He explains: “For the development of Vitesse, recruitment is crucial. We can offer playing time on a high level in a very good league like the Eredivisie with European ambitions. But of course we also know there are bigger clubs, and when I’m negotiating with players and their management, I very often say that in three or four years’ time, ‘I don’t want to have you here, I want to make you ready for the next step’.
“This is the DNA of our club. We are a club to jump into but also to jump out of as high as possible. This lets us survive in the market between the big and the smaller clubs, and we can also have a positive impact by making good recruitment with talented players and then make them ready for the next step.”
With Spors firmly settled at the club and a new three-year contract finalised just this week, it appears Vitesse are well set to take the next step too.
“The long-term strategy is that we really want to develop Vitesse to a top four club in Holland,” he says. “There is a top four at the moment with Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar. We are behind when you compare the value and budgets of the clubs, but we are working on closing the gap. We are realistic and know we cannot do it in a year or two, but we are working hard.
“By having a clear structure in every department, from innovation to performance to recruitment to medical, we will be ready to make the next step and bring the club sustainably to a top four level in Holland. That is the goal.”
“To run a football club, for me as a Sporting Director it is never a one man show. It’s about my whole team – my Assistant, the Head of Scouting, the whole scouting team – in order to get a lot of information about players from data, from video, from scouting, but also from our network.”
Bron: Blog Transferroom / Foto's: SV