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The best scouting success stories: from Alan Pardew’s French revolution to Southampton’s wonderkids

Arsenal made the surprising decision to get rid of well-renowned scout Francis Cagigao as part of their wide-scale redundancies earlier this week.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed on Wednesday that Cagigao is one of 55 redundancies being made by the Gunners as they look to repair the financial damage caused by coronavirus pandemic.

The Spaniard, who held the role of Head of International Scouting at Arsenal, was responsible for the signings of Cesc Fabregas and current vice-captain Hector Bellerin from the Barcelona youth academy.

Cagigao also scouted current Arsenal fan favourite Gabriel Martinelli, who was signed from Brazilian minnows Ituano last summer.

But Cagigao is not the only Premier League scout to have hit the jackpot with his finds in previous seasons. Leicester enjoyed huge success under Steve Walsh while Malcolm Elias oversaw huge youth development at Southampton.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the best scouting success stories from around the Premier League… 

Under the watchful eye of former head of youth development Malcolm Elias, Southampton nurtured some of Europe’s top talent at the beginning of the 21st century. 

Elias, alongside academy director Huw Jennings and youth coach Steve Wigley, helped to scout and develop the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw at the St Mary’s academy. 

Real Madrid winger Bale has gone on to win the Spanish top flight and several Champions League trophies with the LaLiga giants, but Southampton cashed in for just £10million in 2007 when he left for Tottenham.

Elias also spotted Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who were both bought by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in two separate £12m deals. 

The latter is now a Premier League champion with Liverpool, while Walcott netted over 100 goals for the Gunners before joining Everton.

Shaw, meanwhile, enjoyed a run in the Southampton side under Mauricio Pochettino, before moving to Manchester United for £30m.

He is now the first-choice left back for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Elias also held a similar role at Liverpool, before joining Fulham in 2009 as their head of talent ID and recruitment. 

A lot of praise for Leicester’s remarkable Premier League title win in 2015-16 is given to manager Claudio Ranieri and his playing staff, though the Foxes’ former chief scout Steve Walsh was the man who masterminded the shock triumph from behind the scenes. 

Walsh joined Leicester in 2008 and was responsible for bringing Vardy to the club, having scouted the Englishman at non-league side Fleetwood Town.

He was also the man who plucked N’Golo Kante from obscurity. The Frenchman was key to the Foxes’ title win and is now regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. 

Kante was bought from French side Caen, who had just been promoted to the French top flight, for around £5.6m. He was sold on a year later to Chelsea for £32m.

Walsh also brought young winger Riyad Mahrez to the club from French second-tier side Le Havre in 2014, who also helped the Foxes win the title before joining Manchester City for £60m.

After Leicester’s title win, Walsh joined Everton as director of football but his recruitment was much less successful. He was relieved of his duties in May 2018 and replaced by Marcel Brands.

In the 2011-12 season, Alan Pardew’s red-hot Newcastle side threatened to qualify for the Champions League, having built a squad with flair and attacking promise.

The Magpies were spearheaded by Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba up front and Hatem Ben Arfa in wide positions. 

Behind them, Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote guarded the back line in midfield, but the raft of new signings could only finish in sixth place. 

Chief scout Graham Carr, father of comedian Alan, was responsible for signing those five players, who had all been handpicked from the French, German and Dutch leagues. 

While Cisse and Marveaux’s careers peaked at St James’ Park, Ben Arfa and Cabaye would go on to play for French champions Paris Saint-Germain. 

Carr now works as an associate director at newly-promoted League One side Northampton Town.  

Former Dutch manager Piet De Visser joined Chelsea in 2005 as a scout and personal advisor on transfers to club owner Roman Abramovich.

De Visser noticed that the Blues had spent far too much money on African players Didier Drogba and Michael Essien in the first two summer transfer windows of Abramovich’s reign.

He recommended cheaper but equally effective signings at Stamford Bridge.

Among the Dutchman’s recommendations were Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel, who joined the west London club in 2006 and won multiple titles with the Blues.

De Visser also told the club to sign Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and while the Belgian duo flopped at Chelsea, they are now two of the best players in the world in their positions. 

The 85-year-old scout is still offering advice to Chelsea and Abramovich on transfers today. 

French scouting expert Damien Comolli has made shrewd signings at Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, having been a scout, coach and director of football at all three Premier League sides.

Comolli’s best spots came while working at Arsenal, where he recommended defenders Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue to former boss Arsene Wenger.

Toure signed from the Ivory Coast’s top division after a successful trial in north London, while Eboue and Clichy were plucked from the Swiss top-flight and French lower leagues respectively.

Comolli held a similar role at Tottenham, where he recommended the club sign Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric in 2008. 

Modric would go on to win the Champions League several times with Real Madrid and also the Ballon d’Or in 2018. 

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