Red Bull may be close to identifying a global sporting director. According to Bild, CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has been negotiating with former Bayern Munich striker Mario Gómez for weeks. The role would not be with Leipzig but instead involve “networking and further developing” of New York Red Bulls and RB Bragantino.
Previous iterations of the role were held by Jochen Schneider and most famously Ralf Rangnick. A prior report from Bild indicated that Mintzlaff intended to make a hire by the summer, which obviously failed to occur. There were already alleged existing personnel issues that were exacerbated by a “coronavirus hiring freeze.”
Gómez retired in 2020 after two-and-a-half seasons at VfB Stuttgart, ending his career with a goal that returned Die Roten to the Bundesliga. The 36-year-old has been working as a commentator for Amazon Prime but is eyeing a return to the sport. He has known Mintzlaff for years and harbors many connections with members of the organization, including a long-time personal relationship with commercial director Florian Scholz.
“It is clear that I miss football because I have played more than 20 years,” Gómez told Stuttgarter Zeitung (via 90min). “That is the area in which I know my way around and can find myself. But there are no guard rails for me, where I absolutely want to go. The only thing that is clear is that I don’t want to be a coach at first.”
The global coordinator position – difficult to fill due to its indirect nature and lower level of prestige when compared to a similar, more traditional role – would be an ideal landing spot for a first-time executive. Less focused on decision-making, the responsibilities entail coordination between the various clubs under the Red Bull umbrella, facilitating the sharing of scouting knowledge and other synergistic dealings. Current Hertha Berlin sporting director Fredi Bobic was reportedly pursued but remained uninterested. Leeds United director of football Victor Orta and Igli Tare of Lazio were also connected in the media, neither of which advanced past the sound and fury stage of the rumor mill.
Despite the occasionally valid cynicism regarding synergy, New York recently benefited from a closer connection between sister clubs. Brazilian striker Fábio could be considered a success, scouted by Bragantino and sent north. An increase in staff would ideally streamline communication and lessen global responsibilities at the local level, creating the rare situation where the middleman is, in fact, a welcome ancillary presence.
Placing a former world class player such as Gómez in a global technical position might also add some nebulous glamor element, providing a touch of celebrity bona fides to counter the ever-present corporate visage. People who have achieved a certain level of notoriety in specific fields tend to garner respect not granted to others, enjoying a slight initial advantage in professional tête-à-têtes and other social battlegrounds. While he would likely be learning the ropes and building his résumé for a future sporting director position, Red Bull clubs could also benefit from his vast professional rolodex, already filled with the kind of deep personal connections that put him in the conversation for this very job.
The specifics of Gómez’s hypothetical impact – likely to not supersede but instead support head of sport Kevin Thelwell – will never be fully shared with the public, outside of the occasional post-player career catch-up interview. Increasing synergistic bonds and other behind-the-scenes responsibilities do not make for thrilling prose, as anyone who slogged through this post can attest. What the actual hiring could signal is an important step forward for an organization perhaps struggling to define itself in medias coronavirus and following the departure of talismanic soothsayer Rangnick. Filling empty positions is the base expectation of progress, especially at a time when two clubs under the Red Bull umbrella – Leipzig and New York – are struggling for results.