Total European transfer value of 3.5 billion euro’s in summer 2016, with an average of 5.6 million euro’s
Much media attention will go to the star players that change sides for record amounts and get huge salaries. Last year the most talked about transfer was Paul Pogba’s to Manchester United. A small number of clubs dominate the top of the market with seemingly unlimited budgets. But the great majority of clubs have to act carefully, they are often forced to sell their best players and look for bargains and transfer free players to replace them. Take the example of Ajax, they chose to sell their star player Davy Klaassen to Everton for € 27 million. They also had to let go striker Bertrand Traoré who was on loan from Chelsea. In return they attracted veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar transfer free from Schalke ’04. Financially they have done well so far, but they need more reinforcements to compete for the Dutch title.
So what are the factors that determine the value of a football player? Approaching this scientifically, with statistical means, we shift the focus from the star players to the bulk of the professional football players. Intuitively the most important factor is the playing skill of the player, shown on the pitch in the recent past. Translating the playing skill into numbers, you take into account his individual statistics (matches, goals, etc.), but more importantly his contribution to the results of his team. What difference does it make for match outcome if he plays or not? The Euro Player Index (EPI) measures that, taking into account the strength of the teams and the competition. Not surprisingly the current EPI ranking is led by Ronaldo and Messi, who have the biggest impact on the two strongest teams.
The majority of professional players by their EPI and Transfer value
Talent is another factor of major importance, the potential to develop into a good or better player. All clubs have talent scouts to spot talented players, but statistics can help here too. Looking back at the playing strength development of many football players, age related patterns show up. Most players and certainly the average player have a strength curve that rises over the years, peaking at an age of 27 or 28 and then slowly goes down till the end of the career. Strikers tend to peak somewhat earlier and goalkeepers somewhat later. Using predictive analysis on current players, projecting their strength curves into the future, you can make estimates of their potential.
“You should score one more goal than the opponent” is a football wisdom from Johan Cruijff. Making goals is the essence of football and the market gives strikers and attacking midfielders a higher value than defensive players, especially if they score a lot.
The value of a football player is not just related to his sporting characteristics. The height of a transfer fee depends also on the sporting and financial strength of the selling team, same of the buying team, the duration and salary of the current contract, same of the new contract, and the demands of the player’s agent. A small club usually gets a modest transfer fee for a good player, the moment he signs at a bigger club his value has risen. Dries Mertens went for € 600 K from AGOVV to FC Utrecht, then for € 6 M to PSV and later for € 10 M to Napoli, now he is valued at over € 25 M. Nationalities also play a role, both on the club level (a transfer to England pays much better than a transfer to Holland) and the player level (players from outside the EU have restrictions in EU countries).
At Remiqz we are working hard to get a grip on not only the sporting value of the players, but also their financial value. Looking at the actual transfer sums for thousands of players and correlating them with all the factors mentioned above, we developed a useful model for the value of football players, that can be used by clubs in their transfer strategy. They can identify the weak spots in their team, and the vacancies caused by leaving players, and look for good and affordable replacements.
In the first phase of this transfer window, there is a hunt for good players that are transfer free. Many of these players can fulfill the need to strengthen or broaden the prospective team. The lack of a transfer sum will often be compensated partly in the salary or a signing fee. We watch the upcoming transfers closely and learn from them to improve our models. We will share our findings in future blogs.
Wim van de Fliert
Chief Football Intelligence