When it comes to the transfer market, Premier League clubs have taken the analytical approach in recent years to find new talent, while scouting habits and finances have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. .
However, clubs can follow different strategies to be successful. Here’s how four teams managed to make their way to market, and what the others could learn from their efforts:
LIVERPOOL: Using data to evaluate the right players
Arguably, Anfield’s market strategy – driven by proprietary Fenway Sports Group, which has experience in American sports with the MLB’s Boston Red Sox – was the first to be labeled with the term “Moneyball.” in the Premier League.
Liverpool’s recruiting team, which had mostly worked for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, had a strong run following the arrival of Jürgen Klopp in 2015, facilitated, in large part, by a data-driven approach.
Having spent huge sums on flops like Lazar Markovic, Christian Benteke and Andy Carroll, the club made headlines by making the decision to invest even more in world-class stars like Virgil van Dijk (£ 75m), Alisson (£ 56m) , Mohamed Salah (£ 36.9m) and Sadio Mané (£ 34m), as these decisions were backed by stronger evidence. Klopp made specific requests about the type of players he wanted, left the search up to his staff, and the methodology paid off with the first Premier League title since 1990 and the first Champions League trophy since 2005.
Today, although the methodical and process-based approach continues, the appetite to spend record sums on certain positions seems to have been exhausted – probably as a result of the financial stalemate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the certainty of that much of the work to build a top-notch team has already been done.
When not mired in an injury crisis, Liverpool has proven to be one of the most progressive traders on the market, as demonstrated by their clever moves by Fabinho (£ 40m), Diogo Jota (£ 35m), Thiago (£ 20m) and Andy Robertson (£ 7m).
However, there is still a lot to learn. After last season’s chaotic search for a center-back in the middle of an injury crisis – where they panicked and signed Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and Ben Davies for £ 1.5m from Preston to fill the gaps – Liverpool was more careful to recruit one of Europe’s best young defenders, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig for £ 35m this summer. Those are the kinds of moves that could leave you standing strong for years.
LEICESTER: Target specific markets and act quickly
Leicester raised the bar when the recruiting team led by Steve Walsh brought in players like Riyad Mahrez (£ 500k), Robert Huth (£ 4m) and N’Golo Kanté (£ 7m), plus free agents Marc Albrighton and Christian Fuchs , to lay the foundation for his incredible 2016 Premier League championship. Even star forward center Jamie Vardy was discovered and recruited from Fleetwood Town for £ 1m in 2012, and made a superstar.
An early adopter of number-based analytics to identify potential recruits, Walsh’s team has been excellent at finding value in overlooked areas. Yet today, with the same tools at everyone’s disposal, spectacular finds have been rare, and Walsh left in 2016 – he briefly passed through Everton as sporting director before becoming a special advisor to debuting Charlotte FC. in MLS next season.
Still, Leicester continues to impress. Though he raised funds by casting out some of his stars – Harry Maguire (£ 80m), Mahrez (£ 60m), Ben Chilwell (£ 50m), Danny Drinkwater (£ 35m), Kanté (£ 32m) – he made the canny decision. of targeting some specific markets to replace them and becoming an expert in them rather than casting a broader network across Europe. His focus on France and Belgium, in particular, is paying off.
Last autumn they invested £ 31.5m to sign 20-year-old Wesley Fofana and the player from Saint-Etienne closed the season as one of the Premier League’s most prominent center-backs. Staying ahead of the competition with players like Fofana – in contrast, Arsenal spent £ 27m to bring in their unsuccessful defensive colleague William Saliba – has been key, and on their list of top-notch additions the latter seasons include Youri Tielemans (£ 40m), James Maddison (£ 22.5m) Caglar Soyuncu (£ 19m) and Wilfred Ndidi (£ 15m).
Time will tell, but this summer’s additions – FC Salzburg center forward Patson Daka (£ 27m) and Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumaré (£ 18m) – look just as promising.
While the Leicester scouts deserve recognition, it must also be said that they have very well oiled logistics. As the chief scout of one of Europe’s great clubs told ESPN: “Leicester receives a lot of praise for their work in the market, and they deserve it. In my opinion, the highlight is their response time. They identify what they They want and go for it. Everyone knew about Tielemans, but while everyone was hesitating, Leicester moved their chip. The same goes for Daka and Soumaré – absolutely everyone who works on identifying top-tier talent knows them by heart, but, once again Leicester went looking for them first. To me this shows that the club is well coordinated. They all work by the same principles, and the owner and CEO are on top too. This is a great strength. In many others clubs, discussions take too long. “
MAN CITY: The holistic approach backed by a big investment
After investing £ 1bn in the passing market for the past six years alone, the reigning Premier League champions are in a comfortable position. The coach, Pep Guardiola, already has two quality options for each position in the first team and, thanks to the investment and impressive work at the academy level, home-grown talent such as Phil Foden is beginning to emerge.
Almost a decade after the club was ridiculed for wanting to implement a “holistic approach” following the firing of Roberto Mancini in 2013, they are doing very well now. The benefits of the structure and principles established by the sports director, Txiki Begiristain, and by Guardiola influenced the youth teams, the women’s squad and the recruiting team. City now operates with clear guidelines on what is the style of player that could be of interest to the club.
What’s more, Manchester City is now the pinnacle of City Football Group, an Abu Dhabi-backed entity with 10 clubs in every corner of the globe – Girona (Spain), New York City FC (USA), Troyes (France). ), Lommel SK (Belgium), Melbourne City (Australia), Mumbai City (India), Sichuan Jiuniu (China), Montevideo City Torque (Uruguay), Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan) – all run with a similar philosophy and principles , and its group of clubs includes reigning champions from three countries.
By sending future top players to second teams, City’s recruiting group theoretically positions them on a path that will ideally lead them east of Manchester, but it remains to be seen whether players like Daniel Arzani, Kluiverth Aguilar, Diego Rosa, Pablo Moreno, Yan Couto and Nahuel Bustos will one day have a future at the Etihad.
City’s recent focus on South America has brought them exceptional young talent such as Kayky (£ 8m), Darío Sarmiento (£ 3m) and Aguilar (£ 1m), who may first leave on loan before having the chance to be part of the first team. But the club, without a doubt, is inclined towards the incorporation of young and ambitious players with the technical profile that matches its clearly defined style of play.
The addition last year of Benfica defender Ruben Dias (£ 61m) and Valencia winger Ferran Torres (£ 20m) are good examples of this idea, but at a higher price and ready to go, while funds Considerable amounts are still available to world-class candidates when they need it. It will be interesting to see how City balances its ‘holistic approach’ with young players as opposed to investing more than £ 100m – in Tottenham striker Harry Kane or Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, or perhaps both. .
As they continue to be backed by Abu Dhabi money, City will always be able to compete for the best players in the world. Although they will be more focused on developing the next Foden.
MAN UNITED: Invest big in big name players
United represents the blueprint for developing players through the academy, and memories of the successful “Class of ’92” still give rivals the chills. But, alongside their City opponents, United have been one of the biggest invested clubs in recent years averaging £ 131m per year over the past seven seasons. That kind of investment has favored the addition of Paul Pogba (£ 89.3m), Maguire (£ 80m), Bruno Fernandes (£ 56m), Fred (£ 53m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£ 50m) and they have focused on going little by little putting together a squad of world-class players.
Borussia Dortmund’s £ 73.9m capture this summer of winger Jadon Sancho matches coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s desire to work with young and dynamic English players, while the £ 34m addition of Real Madrid defender, Raphael Varane, means the addition of a world-class central defender in his prime. There’s certainly a look to the future – as the wingers’ signings Amad Diallo (£ 21m) and Facundo Pellistri (£ 7m) demonstrate – but United’s chaotic rebuilding since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 has been a mix of investing heavily (sometimes out of place as in the case of Donny van de Beek or Romelu Lukaku) and adding experience with players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.
As a global trading force, United’s finances have not suffered as hard a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic as many of its rivals have, while it has invested significantly in its recruiting department in the United States. recent years and have restructured the organization to make room for the Director of Soccer, John Murtough – with the result perhaps being the emergence, finally, of a clearly defined overall recruiting strategy.
United’s decades of focus on the academy have produced the likes of Brandon Williams, Scott McTominay, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to make it to the first team, but that success has always been supplemented by investment in key positions. all Seasons. Communication on where to strengthen is key and, after a few mistakes in the passing market under Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, Solskjaer’s excellent summer moves could mean they have been able to put together the team to get through next season.