Four facts you should consider when planning for the future:
1. The league table often lies: because football is such a low scoring sport, teams don’t always get the results they deserve. This season in La Liga, for example, Getafe sit rock bottom of the league, yet they’re actually the 9th best performing team in the league according to our statistical model. We would therefore expect them to climb up the table if their performance level remains the same. However, without a true marker of underlying performance, clubs tend to over- or under-estimate the need for change.
2. You’re at your best when your players hit peak age: research into age profiles of squads in the Premier League, for example, reveals that clubs often have their best seasons when the bulk of their squad is made up of peak age players (25-28, depending on position), and their worst seasons when they have too many old and/or young players. It’s not always easy to keep hold of peak age talent, but doing so would improve your chances of success.
3. It pays to invest in younger players: on average, 24 year olds are already at 98% of their peak value, meaning that their future market value is likely to increase only slightly (peaking at ~25 years) before declining. By 30 years, a player will have depreciated to 76% of his once peak market value. By 32 years, it’s 54%. By all means invest in experience too, but know that – after 25 years – the player’s value will steadily decline.
4. We continue to confuse age with talent: in the big five European leagues this season, 31% of players were born in the first quarter of the year, compared to 17% in the last quarter. This means that we’re potentially missing out on a huge crop of late-born youngsters, overlooked by the talent spotters who see older as better.
It’s not easy to predict the future, but it is possible to nudge the odds in your favour.