How to Spend No More Than £4.2M Per Player and Win

There is a team that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in 2005. A payment from one of their biggest historic rivals helped save the club from administration.

In 2008, they finished 13th in the league.

In 2011, they won the league.

In 2012, they won the league again.

That is a fairly impressive rebuilding effort, regardless of what league you are in. Three years from 13th to league winners seems nearly impossible in modern football unless you spend like a sheikh, right?

Their highest transfer fee during the rebuilding period was £4.2M.

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Cristian Tello and Four More Transfer Targets from Spain You Need to Know


Welcome back to another edition of transfer dossiers, where I scour the internet for stats on some of Europe’s most interesting and underrated players. If you are new to the series, you can find players from Germany here, France parts 1 and 2 here, and the first part of my Spanish dossiers here.

Today I’m going to examine two Barcelona players that have been heating up the transfer airwaves, and then look at a Madrid forward, one of Sociedad’s wonder kids, and finish with an unpolished gem from Bilbao.

Here we go!

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5 Hot Transfer Targets from Spain That You Need to Know

Iago says, "Welcome."

Iago says, “Welcome.”

Welcome back to another set of transfer dossiers. To those who are new to this series, you can check up on the German targets here, plus France part 1 (including Payet, Mollo, and Cabella) and  and part 2 (including Ben Yedder, Alessandrini, and Boudebouz). The point of this series is to use statistics to help unearth excellent players that you might have never heard of before. By focusing on certain key metrics, it becomes possible to see players with high levels of potential well before they become stars, which in turn means you can sometimes find superb bargains in the transfer market.

The end of this piece includes a review of Liverpool target Iago Aspas, but first we’ll look at the guy who lead La Liga in Schrodinger’s Goals this season…

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Can Goal Scorers in Lower Leagues Succeed in the English Premier League?

[Author’s Note: Usually when I write analysis, I try to be definitive in what we can and cannot say. The point of doing this at all is to learn more about the game of football, and part of the learning is designing a solid methodology that lets you make declarative statements.

Sadly, today’s piece doesn’t quite let you come to definitive conclusions. As much as I want to say, “Yes, these things are true!” in this case I can only say, “I think these things are true and the data mostly agrees.” Despite all that, I think this piece adds to the general knowledge, and I hope you enjoy.]

Jordan_RhodesTeams should have bought Jordan Rhodes. Premier League teams, I mean.

They probably should have done it after he scored 7 goals in 14 matches at League Two Brentford at age 19. Instead, Huddersfield bought him for £888K. They certainly should have bought him when he put up a 19G/7A season in 45 starts for Huddersfield in League One at age 20. And again after a 16/1 in 28 starts at age 21. And AGAIN after a 37/3 in 37 starts at age 22.

You see, Jordan Rhodes is a massive outlier. Players who produce numbers like he did at Huddersfield – scoring goals at a rate of one per game – are exceptionally rare. It’s rarer still that they do it at such a young age. As something that is rare in the game of football, and with a skill so valuable, you would have thought that one of the Premier League clubs would snap him up as soon as he came to their attention.

None of them did.

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Transfer Dossiers – Ben Yedder, Alessandrini, Boudebouz, and a Dude Named Saber

Greetings, and welcome to another edition of Transfer Dossiers. In this series, I take a statistical look at potentially overlooked or just plain interesting transfer targets in the major leagues. I covered the first half of the players from Ligue 1 here. They include Payet, Mollo, Cabella, and Feret, so if you are interested in them, clique ze link. [Note: I also looked at Bundesliga value targets here.]

Today I’m going to look at a couple of young goalscorers, as well as an attacking midfielder that was rumoured to be on his way to Liverpool last summer, a transfer that – like most of Liverpool’s summer transfers last year – never quite happened.

[Note: I have added an explanation for the abbreviations of stat categories at the bottom.]

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Translating Spanish to English for Attacking Players

One of the issues we often hear with regard to potential transfers are questions about whether a player from league X can perform in league Y. Fans and media both seem to remember the transfer busts that came from various leagues with much more veracity than they do the successes.

This became especially clear last month when I was discussing the potential move of Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus with a number of Juve supporters. It seems some previous transfers from Spain to Italy made them inherently skeptical of whether La Liga players could score goals in Serie A, even when presented with a player of Higuain’s ability.

This is exactly the sort of information a Director of Football from any country would need to know, and it’s a topic data analysis is readily equipped to handle.

agueroBuy Foreign!
In my mind, Premier League teams are constantly signing players from the other big European countries. In reality, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In the last two seasons, only 7 attacking players were signed from Spain, 9 from Germany, and 5-6 from France.  Unfortunately, this means there isn’t enough data to truly confirm or deny whatever suspicions we might have, but it’s worth looking at to see if there are positive or negative indicators.

These are the attackers who moved from Spain in the last two seasons, plus whatever stats I have been able to gather. Three were considered rising or established stars at the time (Aguero, Mata, Cazorla), the rest were from middle or lower-tier clubs that had performed well in Spain the previous season.

Cazorla Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 37(1) 12 11 3 2.5 2.3 1.7 1.1 86.8
LaLiga 38 9 5 2.3 2.2 1.3 2.4 1.5 85
Michu Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 35 18 2 3.1 1 0.2 0.9 1.1 78.7
LaLiga 37 15 3 2.4 1.1 0.3 1.2 1 68.5
Kone Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 32(2) 11 5 2.7 1.2 1.3 2.6 2.2 84.5
LaLiga 34 15 4 2.3 0.8 1.1 2.4 2.4 75.1
Pablo Hernandez Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 27(3) 3 6 1.6 1.8 1 0.8 1.3 80.4
LaLiga 19(11) 3 3 1.3 1.1 0.6 1 0.7 78.4
Jonathan de Guzman Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 33(4) 5 6 1.5 1.6 0.4 1.3 0.8 88.8
LaLiga 11(8) 1.3 0.9 0.5 1.4 0.8 84.5
Mata Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 29(5) 6 13 1.9 3 0.9 1.7 1.2 87
LaLiga 31(2) 8 12 2.2 NA NA NA NA NA
Aguero Apps G A ShpG KP Drib Disp Trn PS%
EPL 31(3) 23 8 3.8 1.7 1.6 2.8 1.5 86.5
LaLiga 31(1) 20 2 4 NA NA NA NA NA

Seven guys, all of whom performed similar or better than they did in Spain in their first season in England.

Mata, Aguero, and Cazorla went from being some of the best players in Spain to being some of the best players in England. Michu and Kone immediately proved that, if you can score for lower-table clubs in Spain, you can score in England. And Hernandez and de Guzman, two players Michael Laudrup brought over when he transitioned from Spain himself, turned out to be excellent performers in his first season at Swansea.

Obviously it’s only seven guys, but since all showed similarly positive output, I would feel very comfortable buying players from La Liga. It’s a big country with a large talent pool, and there are quite a few good players who still play for teams that are not Barcelona or Real Madrid. In fact, given the monetary issues most teams in Spain are having, if I were a mid-table club in the PL, I’d be scouring the countryside looking for worthwhile additions in both La Liga and the Segunda. Scoring happens at about the same rate as in England, so unlike scouting some place like the Eredivisie or France, the numbers just make sense.

The only way these teams stand a chance of improving is by recruiting better players for less money than they have been paying for Premier League castoffs for years, and Spain looks like a great place to do just that.

Transfer Dossiers – Payet, Mollo, Cabella, and Feret

SS Moneyball2

Yesterday’s piece about actual Moneyball and translating certain elements to football was extremely well-received. It also helps explain one of the key stats I’ll be looking at when fishing for potentially undervalued attackers for the next week or two.

Today, we turn our attention to France. Ligue 1 likely has the lowest talent level on the whole of the big 5 leagues, but obviously there are plenty of players there waiting to be found, both in the form of value prospects as well as interesting statistical anomalies. We’ll start with one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe this season.

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