The biggest bang for your buck
Finding the balance between what we want and what we can afford is a key part of player recruitment. Often our grandiose summer plans are left unfulfilled by the time the new season arrives, with necessary compromise having thwarted our ambitions.
But there are some simple things that we can do to maximise the performance returns of our investment. For example, investing in our defense, while unglamorous, can yield a much greater performance return than seeking out expensive, attacking recruits.
Let’s take a look at four of the strongest teams in the Europe, ranked 2nd to 5th in our European Super League* (ESL). In terms of overall strength, there is very little separating Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Juventus. The Spanish clubs are all pretty close in La Liga, while the Champions League final between Juventus and Real is unlikely to be a one-sided affair.
If we look at how our model rates each team in terms of attack and defense, two distinctive approaches to team building become evident. On the one hand, Barcelona and Real are predominantly attacking forces filled with expensively acquired attacking gems, while Juve and Atlético are more defensively impressive, with a greater focus on organisation than flair.
This only becomes relevant to our recruitment plans, however, when we consider the relative market value of each team. Barcelona and Real’s value relative to that of Atlético and Juve shows which of the approaches costs the most to execute.
So what can we take from this?
Simply put, acquiring defensive talent is cheaper and doesn’t necessarily impinge on our ability to be a good team. For financially stretched teams, therefore, investing in your defense may yield the biggest return in performance terms. Clearly there is a balance to be struck – Pisa have conceded the fewest goals in Serie B but are still at the foot of the table – and many other factors to consider, but where resources are limited and the attack is at least fit for purpose, buying for the back might yield the biggest bang for your buck.
*Our European Super League model ranks 700 teams from across Europe in one ‘league table’, enabling clubs to see how their squad rates relative to clubs in other leagues