Since his arrival in July 2021, new Newcastle Jets Manager, Arthur Papas, has made an impact both on the training pitch, and behind the scenes.
The former Yokahama F. Marinos coach has been tasked with reassembling almost the entire squad in preparation for the 2021/22 Men’s A-League season and in doing so, has made over a dozen new signings.
While many are Australians who were either currently playing in the A-League, or once did before plying their trade overseas, four of those players are internationals, brand new to the competition.
Recently, Papas spoke with Tom Smithies on A-League.com to discuss how exactly two of those international signings came to be, including the research that takes place beforehand, and the conversation that convinced them to join.
Joining the Club from Confianca in Brazil, Daniel Penha is currently in quarantine awaiting introduction to his new squad.
The 22-year-old spent much of his youth career learning at Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro, and will play his first season in his career away from his home nation when he steps out in the gold of the Jets.
The first hint of signing the young midfielder came from a distant conversation Papas had while coaching in Japan, about a certain Brazilian midfielder. From there, the Jets’ Manager made enquiries via a colleague’s data analytics company.
“In 2018, I worked for a Belgium company and worked with an English colleague who actually owns a data analytics company that a lot of EPL clubs use,” Papas said.
“The programme creates profiles for the players that you're looking to search for, the characteristics that you think are important.
“I could see that Daniel had really, really progressed a lot over the last 10 months to the point where he's played a lot of matches now for Confianca in Serie B, which is a physically very difficult league. He’s playing as a number 10 and he's played as a winger, so I could compare him to (similar) A-League players like (Adrian) Luna or (Milos) Ninkovic.
“The next step is to watch the player yourself. Any player who we’ve signed I've watched about five games in full, 90-minute games, then I've also downloaded a whole bunch of highlights to look at certain characteristics.”
Papas then made enquiries with contacts he had, asking about the inside information on Penha such as what he trains like, what he’s like in the dressing room, and he how handles setbacks. But ultimately, the most telling information he could receive, was from talking to Daniel himself.
“A major part is to have a conversation with the player as well and understand him for yourself.”
After doing so, Papas clearly felt Penha was a good fit for the Club and for the squad. It was the same result from the conversation he had with Cameroon-signing, Olivier Boumal.
While Penha was a player that required much in-depth research, Boumal is a signing that spent time at the same Club where Papas worked from 2019.
The six-time capped Cameroon international has spent just over a week training with his new squad and adapting to his new surroundings, but has already proven he can acclimatise to different environments.
Boumal spent most of his youth career playing in France then spent a lot of his playing time in Greece before trying his hand in Asia, including China and Japan, where he played at Yokohama.
Soon after Papas made his way to the Jets, he made enquiries about Boumal, who made the move to the J-League with a $3.5 million transfer fee. The conversations that were held proved the ambitions Boumal has and encouraged Papas to put the deal in motion.
“You can’t have played in the J-League without being at a significant level,” Papas said.
“I had a couple conversations about him, and then the main thing was, I actually connected with him myself. He was in Greece, actually, he speaks fluent Greek. So that was a positive as well, we could have a conversation both in English and Greek.
“He told me that one of his ambitions is to try and get back into the Cameroon national squad for the next African Nations Cup, which he says realistically is his last chance. So that's a huge motivation for a player, that he's still got that aspiration.
“There's a purpose behind why he's wanting to take this opportunity.”
Boumal and Penha will both join the list of overseas players to don the Jets jersey, as too will Greek striker Savvas Siatravanis, Georgian-international Beka Mikeltadze, and defender Dane Ingham who has represented New Zealand on seven occasions.
Plus, another foreign midfielder might be on his way in the coming weeks.