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Arsenal staff left shocked as Gunners axe talent spotter Cagigao

17:42 BST 05/08/2020
Gabriel Martinelli, Hector Bellerin, Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal
The former head of recruitment played a key role in discovering the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Martinelli

Arsenal’s senior scouting network has been left stunned after several key figures were told they would be losing their jobs on Wednesday morning.

As reported by the Mail and since confirmed by Goal, one of those who will be leaving the club is head of international recruitment, Francis Cagigao - the man credited with discovering the likes of Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas during Arsene Wenger’s reign.

Cagigao was also the driving force behind the deal to bring Gabriel Martinelli to the club last year and personally travelled to Brazil to watch the teenager in action when he was playing for state side Ituano.

When Martinelli scored his stunning solo goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in January, Fabregas immediately took to Twitter to pay tribute to the man who has been leading Arsenal’s scouting network. “Francis Cagigao strikes again and again,” Fabregas said. “Legend.”

Cagigao has been at Arsenal for over two decades and has long been hailed as one of the most important figures within the club’s recruitment network, with his extensive contacts book the envy of many and his talent for unearthing some of the best young players respected across football.

But following Wenger’s departure, Arsenal - under head of football Raul Sanllehi and technical director Edu - have increasingly moved towards an agent-led strategy when it comes to transfers.

And that strategy looks set to increase further now with the departure of Cagigao and some of his most trusted team members, who will leave as part of 55 proposed redundancies at Arsenal, which the club say are being enforced due to the significant impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Brian McDermott was a senior player at Arsenal between 1979 and 1984 and has been a long-term scout at the club, working alongside Cagigao and focusing primarily on European leagues. He was also told on Wednesday morning that he no longer has a job, as were other figures within the scouting network.

Sources have told Goal that there is a feeling of bemusement that a club of Arsenal's stature would move to get rid of so many respected figures within its scouting network in favour of relying on working with agents.

Upon announcing the news that the club would be making 55 redundancies, a joint statement released by Sanllehi and managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “We do not make these proposals lightly and have looked at every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point. We are now entering the required 30-day consultation period on these proposals.  

“We know this is upsetting and difficult for our dedicated staff and our focus is on managing this as sensitively as possible.

“These proposed changes are ultimately about ensuring we take this great football club forward, creating the right organisation for a post-Covid world, and ensuring we have the resources to return to competing effectively at the top of the game here and in Europe.”