FEATURE | Juni Calafat: The man behind some of Real Madrid’s biggest signings

Real Madrid’s transfer strategy in recent years has paid off. The La Liga club, for many reasons including financial, decided to strengthen their scouting across the world.

The aim was to find emerging stars to be developed with the help of the veteran players in the squad. To carry out this work, the club had the most suitable man, Juni Calafat.

Born in Spain but raised in São Paulo, he arrived at Valdebebas in 2014 to be head of recruitment in South America. Today, at 49, he holds the position of Chief Scout and Director of International Football at Madrid.

People close to him describe him as a “football madman”. To widen his network and make sure that no future talent escapes him, he has a team of international scouts who help him make reports and keep him up to date on the situation of every player who might be of interest. He also has an endless archive of videos that he uses for initial scouting.

Calafat’s main area of influence is South America, where he discovered gems like Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde. He had also monitored Éder Militão. In Europe, he brought in young players like Martin Ødegaard and Eduardo Camavinga. And he is not only involved in the recruitment of promising players, but he played a role in signing Eden Hazard and Germany international Antonio Rüdiger.

His links with Brazil mean that he controls that particular market very well, but his attention has since turned to a global reach. He has been instrumental in getting the Aurélien Tchouaméni deal over the line, travelling to Monaco to ensure the process was smooth and help strengthen Madrid’s position in the negotiations.

Calafat hasn’t gotten everything right, though. Brazilian player Lucas Silva and Sergio Díaz of Paraguay never reached the level they had initially promised. His latest recommendation was Reinier, who is currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund. The attacking midfielder from Brazil hasn’t performed as expected in Europe but is still quite young. That is all part of the risk taken scouting the next big thing.

Some of these Calafat signings are not only performing on the pitch. Financially, they are paying off too. Some arrived with expensive price tags, though their value has increased due to the onfield success.

Vinicius arrived from Flamengo and Rodrygo was bought from Santos. Both players cost €45 million each. There was criticism from some in Madrid for the signings, considering the price involved and their age. Vinicius, who arrived in 2018, is now worth an estimated €100 million, more than double, according to Transfermarkt. Rodrygo, who joined in 2019, has seen his worth shoot to €60 million in 2021/22, with fine displays on the right wing.

An example of Calafat’s work is the signing of Fede Valverde, who was brought in from Uruguayan giants Peñarol. Los Blancos paid €5 million for him in 2016, when he was barely worth €450,000. Six years later, he is a key player and is worth €70 million.

Former Peñarol vice president Rodolfo Catino is someone who knows Valverde more than most because he was with him in the early stages of his career. He remembers the interest that was generated in the midfielder in Uruguay.

Catino believes that Real Madrid took a chance on a young Valverde without breaking the bank.

“Madrid put their faith in Fede because Juni Calafat had seen something special. They paid the €5 million, plus there were other variables,” he said.

“It has been shown that they were right in their decision.”

Militão, who cost €50 million, is worth €60 million. Madrid paid €31 million to Ligue 1 club Rennes for midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and the Frenchman is now worth €55 million. Ødegaard, who Madrid sold last season to Arsenal for €35 million, cost just €2.8 million in 2015.

South America is still home to many of the players Calafat and Madrid want to target in the future. One of the future targets is Endrick (15), from Palmeiras, who is a highly-rated talent in Brazil. The club is following his development and is waiting for him to turn 16 before making a decision, although there have been talks with his agency.

Matheus Nascimento, an 18-year-old striker from Botafogo, has also been mentioned.

Calafat has been a key figure in the success of this season’s La Liga and Champions League double. His role at the club can’t be understated, being one of Florentino Pérez’s and José Ángel Sánchez’s most important men.

The talent spotter went unnoticed at the Stade de France when Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final on 28 May. He has been the architect behind the club’s dominance in the transfer market and has more than played his part in the club’s success in recent years.


More European Football News