Football Features

From Edu the Arsenal midfielder, to Mr Gaspar the Director of Football

By Harry Edwards

Published: 12:14, 8 May 2019

Following changes to the way the club is being run, Arsenal are on the lookout for a new sporting director.

According to earlier reports, their first choice was Roma director extraordinaire Monchi, hailed as one of the best in the business across Europe. But in March the Spaniard’s return to Sevilla – where he made his name – ruled that out.

And now it appears they have turned their gaze to former midfielder Edu, who spent four-and-a-half years with the club between 2002 and 2005, and was part of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ team. It is being claimed the Brazilian has agreed a five-year deal and will join up with Arsenal in July.

But this is not just an appointment of a familiar name to the role, Edu Gaspar comes highly regarded.

The birth of Mr Gaspar

While Arsenal fans will know their former midfielder simply as Edu, the Brazilian goes by a slightly different name now.

As is the case with many Brazilian footballers, the use of mononyms (single-word names) can make things confusing. For example, by mentioning Edu, you could be referring to the former Arsenal man, the Portuguese midfielder Edu, former Real Betis and Celta Vigo star Edu or World Cup winner Edu among others.

As such, upon signing for Corinthians in 2009, Edu had his last name, Gaspar, displayed on the back of his shirt to help with his personal brand post-retirement. No longer would he need to be referred to as “Edu of Corinthians” or Arsenal’s Edu. He was now Mr Gaspar.

Sporting director at Corinthians

After retiring in 2010 at the end of an injury-plagued career, Edu made the step up to become director of football at Corinthians, replacing William Machado and has not looked back since.

During Edu’s (or Mr Gaspar’s) five-year spell in the role, Corinthians won two domestic league titles, the Recopa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup. And the Brazilian’s recruitment played some role in their success.

Edu oversaw the signings of the likes of Alexandre Pato, Renato Augusto, Paulinho, Gil, Vagner Love and Fagner, who would all play their part in Corinthians’ successes.

Though it was not all sunshine for Edu in Brazil, as he did oversee a championship-winning team being pulled apart by interest from Chinese Super League clubs in 2015 – a time when the division threatened to become a superpower.

But Edu’s ways of dealing with the problems were remarkable, working every hour to try and fill the holes left in the squad – and not just with big names, but players actually suitable for Corinthians’ style of play.

Speaking in January 2016, Edu told Gazeta Esportiva: “We are working in a way that nobody can imagine. My room has turned into an office, I would love for you to know how many calls are being made.

“I have more than four sheets written down.

“We have already shown that we are capable of reversing situations. What the supporters can do is stay calm, because commitment, dedication, hours of work and lost hours of sleep are not lacking.

“We want to be thorough and judicious in our recruitment. It’s not about the name of the player, but the characteristics those players can offer.”

That sort of commitment was crucial to Corinthians’ rebuild, though they would take a hit once Edu left.

The move to the national stage

With his job done at Corinthians, Edu took the step up to the Brazilian FA, becoming national team coordinator, a role which has seen the former Arsenal man help in their revival.

The new job saw him follow Tite from Corinthians, where he put his understanding of the manager to good use.

Speaking in 2017 of his relationship with Tite, Edu told Exame: “I know Tite. I know what he needs, what he likes or does not like.

“Depending on the way he looks at me in the locker room, I already know what to do.

“He thinks about what’s his and I think about what’s good for him.”

As coordinator, Edu works with a large number of Brazil’s staff to plan each international break down to the smallest of detail including sorting out a flight from Madrid to Brazil for those players plying their trade to Europe to travel to the training camp.

Edu’s hard work has played a big part in Brazil’s rebirth following the 2014 World Cup, and their attempts to vanquish the ghouls of the 7-1 semi-final defeat at the hands of Germany.

What could it mean for Arsenal?

And it now appears Arsenal are set to profit from the planning and expertise developed by Edu, who it is said will link up with the Gunners after this summer’s Copa America.

The Brazilian’s arrival could see Arsenal tap into the South American market with the expert knowledge of a man who knows what to look for.

Often English clubs shy away from signing young talent from South America due to potential work permit issues, but Arsenal are already being linked with a move for the relatively unknown Gabriel Martinelli – a 17-year-old forward who once had trials with Manchester United and Barcelona.

While some of the bigger names may be more eye-catching, Edu’s arrival may see Arsenal pip rivals to the signings of Brazilian wonderkids before they make a name for themselves on the big stage.

Not only would this give Arsenal the advantage of moulding a player from a young age, as they did with Cesc Fabregas after signing him from Barcelona, but the Gunners could also save money.

And it can only be promising for Arsenal to read of Edu’s relationship with Tite and understanding how his manager works. Should they wish to see Unai Emery turn into another Arsene Wenger, tenure-wise, bringing in a sporting director who can build a personal relationship will be key.

Should the deal be officially confirmed, Arsenal fans have a lot to look forward to.