Steve Walsh is no household name himself but he has found plenty of them, with the talent-spotter discovering N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and many more throughout his incredible career. Once labelled “most important influential person in the Premier League” by Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Chelsea and Leicester City scout also recommended Erling Haaland to Everton when the the teenage Molde striker would have cost just €4 million.
Walsh first made his name as an ace talent-spotter at Chelsea where he scouted Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Gianfranco Zola for the club. But the mind-blowing work Walsh did as head of recruitment at Leicester, where he helped build the Premier League-winning squad of 2015/16, truly shone a light on his unique skills.
In a 2019 interview with The Athletic, Walsh explained how he first spotted Mahrez playing for Le Havre in the French second division, while he was there scouting an entirely different player. First, he had to convince Mahrez – who’d never heard of the club – that Leicester weren’t “a rugby team” before the £450,000 signing was completed.
Mahrez would be named PFA Player of the Year three years later and would eventually be sold to Manchester City for £60 million – but he is far from the only astonishing bargain Walsh pulled off. Walsh watched another ex-Ligue 2 player in Kante before hijacking Marseille’s deal to sign the midfielder – who won man of the match in a Champions League final on Saturday – for £5.2 million.
Then there is Walsh’s most famous coup of all: snatching Vardy, a future Premier League Golden Boot winner, from non-league Fleetwood Town at age 25 for £1 million. The attention around Walsh’s special ability to spot unknown players who turned out to be world-class talents naturally brought the attention of other clubs. In 2016, he was appointed director of football at Everton.