Head of Scouting at San Jose Earthquakes and ex-Head of Youth Scouting for Brazil.
BRUNO COSTA is head of scouting at the San Jose Earthquakes. The Brazilian joined the MLS side in 2017 and has over 20-years experience of scouting and coaching in Serie A and the Brazilian Football Confederation. As scout for the Brazil age group teams, he scouted the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Willian. Bruno draws on his experiences at club and national team level pick out five key identifiers of talent for players in the 14-16 age groups.
Comfortable On The Ball
The first thing I look for is whether the player is comfortable on the ball. When he receives the ball, how comfortable is the player on the ball. The most important thing in a game is the ball so if a player receives the ball well, he has a better chance to succeed. I am from Brazil and come from a background of very technical players, that is the first thing you see in a player. Working as a head scout with Brazil’s national youth teams, I watched the likes of Neymar and Coutinho when they were 14. They were very comfortable receiving the ball in any situation and we promoted them to play at the older age level.
When the player receives the ball, what do they do with it. It is another important aspect of the game. Do they choose the right play? Do they look to pass forward? How quickly do they make the decision to pass/run with the ball?
It is important to look at how a player moves on and off the ball. Even when they have not got the ball, you have to look at what options they are giving to their teammates? Are they tracking the runs of opponents? Do they look to move into positions that give teammates an outlet when they regain possession? What runs do they make to create space for their teammates? How do they move? Do they have good balance?
This is something you have to look for at a certain age. Maybe upto 14-years-old it is not important but when players are at an age to sign a first contract, you should analyse their knowledge and understanding of the system their team is playing, not only defensively but also offensively. The player has to know their role, what is expected of them when they have the ball and when out of possession. Every position has its own characteristics and the players have to understand what is required of them positionally, tactically. Do they take up good positions when in possession and when out of possession?
Look to see how a player is composed on and off the field. Coming into pro-team environments you need players who are going to be good inside the dressing room. If a player does not have a good body language, then having a good composure around teammates, the referee, the fans, with the media that is going to be hard for them in their future. That is something we take a lot of consideration of when signing a player. We like to see their character on and off the pitch.