Everything You Need to Know About 'Madrid's Monchi', Juni Calafat
One of Real Madrid's most powerful men is someone you've likely never seen before and whose name you wouldn't recognize. Yet, Juni Calafat, the Head of International Football at Real Madrid, has his fingerprints on most of Real Madrid's recent transfers. Josh Schneider-Weiler spoke with journalist Dermot Corrigan (The Independent, Unibet) to learn more about Real Madrid's mysterious decision maker. Listen to the full episode here:
Juni Calafat is someone who isn't well known, yet is a key figure in this change. Who is he?
Dermot Corrigan: Yeah, he's a super interesting character, and somebody who, as you say, doesn't have the highest profile for the amount of power that he has, maybe the amount of influence that he has. His name doesn't come out so much in the papers, especially in the English speaking media. He was born in Spain but grew up in Brazil, in Sao Paolo, and was a professional indoor football player (futsal). But he was making his living as that, playing in Madrid, and became friendly with the other Brazilians who were in Madrid around the same time. You're talking about people like Roberto Carlos, Julio Baptista, Ronaldo Nazario. He was friends with them, socialized with them, their families and were friends.
Then after he retired, I'm talking about a decade or so ago, he used to work on Spanish TV. He was an analyst on one of the international programs about international football that were here on Spain. So he would have been, not usually well known, but more as an analyst, journalist type person. In 2014, he went into Real Madrid, a little bit because he knew, he had links with the club from the players that he knew. He joined Madrid as a South American scout. And then bit by bit, he really impressed the people at the club at different levels of the club, he's obviously a good networker. He's obviously a very intelligent guy and it fit with the idea that they were looking to capture more young talent, especially with a focus on South America.
And he was somebody who had the right connections, had the right knowledge of the game as well, and was able to impress all the way up to Florentino Perez. He's close to Florentino's circle, Florentino's family as well, and he has become over the last five or six years, you know, a huge figure at the Bernabeu.
Have you met him?
No. I don't know if he's ever done an interview. A lot of the different people at the club will come out and talk on the radio, or will be, you know, at events and talk to the journalists, and you get a little bit of access. At Vinicius' unveiling, he's there, but he's there with the VIPs. He's not mingling with the journalists, or not with us guys anyway, so I've never come across him.
Which players has he been given credit for signing at the club?
When you read about the people who he is, as you say, given credit for signing, it's Casemiro who was probably the biggest one who was broken into the team.
But there's also people like Lucas Silva who had injury problems, but didn't develop the way he was supposed to. Juni Calafat was supposed to be big in the signing of Martin Odegaard for Madrid. Everybody knew before Madrid signed Martin Odegaard that there was this amazing kid in Norway. You didn't have to have spectacular contacts or spectacular judgment on the game to know that Odegaard looked like a special talent at that stage, and then it was about convincing him to move to Madrid, instead of Liverpool or Bayern Munich or Ajax or the other clubs, who were supposed to be interested in him.
It's been proven that he's found these bunch of amazing stars, or amazing unknown talent who have become stars at Madrid. But bit by bit, he has worked his way up into a position where he's central to the signing of people like Rodrygo and Vinicius and Militao this summer for a lot of money.
Editors Note: According to Libertad Digital, Calafat is responsible for signing the following:
"Pablo Teixeira, William José, Abner, Rodrigo Rodrigues, Augusto Galvan, Odegaard, Lucas Silva, Sergio Díaz, Federico Valverde, Dani Ceballos, Marco Asensio, Andriy Lunin, Odriozola, Vinicius, Rodrygo, Brahim Díaz, we will see if in the end the Arrival of the Argentine Palacios, Mohamed Mizzian and now Militao."
He seems like more of the person that builds relationships with the prospective players and their agents, than actually discovers them.
Yeah, I think that as well. My impression will be similar, that he is very good at the networking end of the job, which is very important. There is a lot involved in getting the kid and his family and his agent to sign with your club, as opposed to other clubs, and that is something that that Juni Calafat seems to be very good at, or to have proven himself as somebody who can get deals done.
We've referenced how quickly he's risen through the ranks at the club, but just how powerful is he?
Again, at Madrid, Florentino Perez is very powerful. You know, he's the club president and he's in charge there. Then you have Jose Angel Sanchez, who's the director general at Madrid, who's been a longtime right hand man of Florentino Perez, and he's maybe more involved in the big signings, and getting the deals done, in dealing with agents, dealing with other clubs.
After that, maybe Juni Calafat could be the next most important person at the club. It's difficult to know, because there's so much talk about what happens, there's so many reports that you read. You talk to people and you hear stories, and people tell you things. But the evidence is there and what we can see is that the club have made a lot of expensive bets on young Brazilian talent over the last two years or so. And Juni Calafat has been involved in that, for sure.
Editors Note: There has been criticism of Calafat by some fans for paying too much in agents fees. An estimated €30 million were paid in intermediary fees in the signings of Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr alone according to El Confidencial.