Read director of football's in-depth first interview.
Roberto De Fanti is a man with his focus firmly fixed on a bright future for Sunderland.
As the club’s recently-appointed director of football, the sharp-suited Italian is the man charged with spearheading the Black Cats' player recruitment efforts.
Born in the south of Italy but raised in various countries around the world, De Fanti spent 12 years as a leading player agent, dealing with clubs across the globe.
Now, having been recruited by chairman Ellis Short he has crossed to the other side of the table to help push Sunderland into a new era.
The Black Cats have been by far and away the busiest top-flight club so far this summer, with recent captures including Italian international Emanuele Giaccherini.
Such activity has sent ripples through the footballing world, with each move a carefully-orchestrated part of a wider game plan drafted months ago.
Sitting in his office at the Academy of Light, situated yards from compatriot Paolo Di Canio’s, De Fanti stressed the importance of emulating Europe’s top clubs.
And being one step ahead is key to a strategy which has seen the squad undergo what he terms as a “refurbishment” this summer.
“Sometimes, if you wait 48 hours the player is gone,” De Fanti said. “I went to sign Cabral at 2am in a restaurant and I was not leaving until I got his signature.
“Then 48 hours later he had offers from two clubs in the Bundesliga. If we had waited longer we would probably not have Cabral now.”
Such planning and organization has already seen the club’s scouting network, headed by Valentino Angeloni, hold their planning meeting for the 2014-15 season with the current campaign still a month away.
“We must look around the world at young talented players, and of course we have to arrive through this information before other clubs,” De Fanti added.
“If we start the competition in August, we’re dead - everyone wants talented players. We have to arrive at them and convince them that this project is the correct one.
“The player must not think ‘I’m going to Sunderland to earn a lot of money’. If they perform, they will earn. We can’t have players on full wages sitting in the stands.”
Sunderland may already have tied up a whole host of deals and been linked with hundreds of players - “ninety per cent of rumours are absolute rubbish”, De Fanti says – but signing on the dotted line is the result of months of hard work before negotiations even begin.
A worldwide pool of thousands of players must be distilled down through painstaking research and scouting work, with potential targets watched over and over again.
The club’s scouting network stretches far and wide across the globe, but the overall direction comes from the man charged with blending the new acquisitions together – head coach Di Canio.
“When we are going to pick a player, the most important thing is the head coach; he has to give the guidelines to the scouting team as to what he is looking for,” De Fanti explained.
“Not only the name of the player – the world is full of players – but the players who fit more into his tactics and the characteristics he likes to see in individuals.
“Paolo explains to us how he wants to play, and on the basis of this and the guidelines given, this information is given to the scouts who will travel around the world.
“I provide them with the economic and financial information of what we can do, and a list comes back of players with priorities.
“On the basis of this work, we decide how to go on.
“For me, we have to change the age of the players [brought in]. We have to think of Sunderland not only for now, but in the future.”
Sunderland’s new chief scout, Angeloni, is the master spotter orchestrating efforts in the field and collating the info which ends up on the director of football’s neatly-ordered desk.
The Italian previously had dealings with De Fanti during the latter’s time as an agent and quickly bought into the club’s ethos as he swapped the San Siro for the Stadium of Light.
Prior to joining Milan, Angeloni scouted for Torino before moving to Udinese, where he played a key role in turning the club into a powerhouse of player development.
And De Fanti is excited to be working with a man he describes as a “massive signing for the club”.
“Udinese were selling players and every year people thought they were going to get relegated, but they continued in the Champions League and Europa League,” he added.
“My connection to Valentino is strong; as an agent I brought many players to Udinese. He flagged them – thankfully he liked the players I was proposing!
“Then he went to Inter Milan and was the first person I thought of to bring in when I came here. To have him accepting to come from Inter shows that Sunderland is a great project.
“For me it is a personal and professional honour to have one of the best chief scouts in the world working here.”
Underpinning the hard yards being put in is a real sense of Sunderland’s potential as a football club.
For De Fanti – a regular traveller – it’s something as simple as a passing conversation with the area’s taxi drivers which hammers home the passion for the club coursing through the region’s veins.
And he says the club’s magnificent fans are just one of the many reasons he’s excited about the Black Cats’ future.
“I always use the expression that Sunderland is like a sleeping giant,” he said.
“We have fantastic fans. I’ve never taken a taxi without talking about football!
“There are incredible facilities at the club, too. Very few clubs have such facilities.
“We have a beautiful stadium, a committed and enthusiastic chairman, a world-class head coach – everything. We just need to wake this sleeping giant up.
“Our goal is to make Sunderland successful in the long term, not just in the present but in the future, and improve day by day.
“All the people of the club are very committed, giving their best and working hard.”