The easiest loss to take
Spot the link between club, person and season:
Borussia Dortmund and Shinji Kagawa (2012-13)
Atlético Madrid and Radamel Falcao (2013-14)
Juventus and Antonio Conte (2014-15)
Atlético Madrid and Arda Turan (2015-16)
Juventus and Paul Pogba (2016-17)
Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho (2017-18)
The answer, obviously: the player or coach left that club during or at the start of that season. Eagle-eyed readers will also note, however, that each of those clubs then went on to reach the Champions League final within 12 months (perhaps Liverpool can buck the trend of being losing finalists to superclubs).
While none of these clubs can claim poverty, they all lost significant talents to wealthier rivals – or in Conte’s case, simply a more attractive role. Some clubs might sulk in self-pity, bemoaning their place on football’s food chain. From the outside, it seemed these clubs simply carried on.
It’s easy to point to reasons why in hindsight: “the players rallied around his departure”, or “player X stepped up his game”, but there’s no denying that public feeling at the time leaned towards a negative view of the loss.
The issue is that we tend to overvalue the impact any one individual can have. While many feared the worst in January, our analysis of Coutinho suggested he might cost Liverpool just a couple of points per season. In general we find that key players are at most worth five points per season.
It takes a lot of courage to let our key players or staff go. There’s no denying that in some cases, the club will be significantly worse for it. But recent history shows that it’s still possible to enjoy success after a loss of talent. Indeed in some corporate organisations like McKinsey, employees are actively encouraged to move on to new roles – individual teams aren’t afraid of losing talent.
With the right preparation and culture, losing good talent can actually be the easiest loss to take.