Aston Villa’s first summer recruit – Johan Lange

Less than 24 hours after Villa had secured their Premier League status, sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch (Suso) departed the club.

Suso had taken up the newly formed role in October 2018 – the same day that Dean Smith was appointed head coach and it was hoped that the pair would propel the fallen giants back to the pedestal of English football.

And, if perceived based on the position the club finds itself in, Suso was fulfilling his role – in just over 18 months Villa had achieved promotion, survived in the Premier League, and visited Wembley twice!

However, football is never that simple, and before enjoying his 2-year anniversary with the club, Suso’s time at Bodymoor Heath met its expiration.

After an alleged deteriorating relationship with CEO Christian Purslow in recent months (mainly due to a differing opinion on transfer dealings), the hunt for a new sporting director had already began.

Velkommen Johan

Lange has never been a professional footballer before, although has a varying wealth of experience in the game.

Originally a youth coordinator at Danish giants FC Copenhagen, Lange has held positions such as, Director of Development, assistant manager and even a brief stint as Manager of Lyngby, throughout twelve years in football.

Despite only ever operating in two countries before, Lange has prior experience of football in the midlands – lasting six months in the dugout at Molineux as assistant manager to Stale Solbakken in 2012.

Despite the differing positions of influence around the squad and boardroom, as Technical Director of Copenhagen, a position he held from 2014, Lange found the most success.

Creating a philosophy that has been mirrored by many other clubs around the world, (most notably in England, by Brentford), the club headhunted players from across Europe for fractional prices, then sold them on for as much as five times the price in later seasons.

A system that Lange was lauded for during his time in his native Denmark. Described by the manager throughout Lange’s six years at the club, Solbakken said today that “Johan is incredibly good at his job and has delivered great results in FCK over the past six years”

Despite the player turnover, winning three league championships combined with as many domestic cups in six seasons, is certainly a statistic that proves Lange and his recruitment strategies have a winning effect.

As well as this, Lange has been responsible for Copenhagen’s annual participation in UEFA European competitions – involvement that owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris envision Aston Villa to be enrolled in by the time they leave the club – “we will not be satisfied until we achieve our goal of bringing sustainable success to Aston Villa at the top tier of European football”.

Appointment sets precedent

Suso replaced by Johan LangeTo conclude, the appointment sets a precedent that Villa will not spend in the same way that Suso did last summer, signing players who appear to fail in terms of expectations.

Rather bringing in players who have been analysed critically by Lange, and have vast potential for the future, both in footballing quality, and their monetary value.

With this likely new system in place, Dean Smith may be more free to propose his own dealings in the recruitment department; much like the way he and Rasmus Ankersen performed during their time together at Brentford.

As we all know, the overachievements and success Smith enjoyed at Griffin Park through this manner was enough to convince Villa to hire him as our head coach.

Whilst it’s all too easy to get ahead of ourselves, the arrival of Lange unquestionably brings about an air of excitement to B6.


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