It’s rare to find a peak-age player playing in a league or team so obviously above or below his level, but this can happen all the time with teenagers, who can remain undiscovered by the wider market for a significant period of time. As such, it becomes even more important to be able to compare teenage performance on a consistent basis across leagues; this is why we developed our Football Exchange Rate.
Of course, it doesn’t require a model to know Erling Håland is an elite talent; even after accounting for his goals in the weaker Norwegian and Austrian leagues, no player born this century has scored more than him when goals are converted to a Premier League ‘currency’ through our exchange rate mechanism. Jadon Sancho – with 13 fewer goals but all at a Bundesliga level – has an almost identical return post-exchange, while Jonathan David (30 goals in the Belgian First Division A) and Ryan Sessegnon (23 goals in England’s top two divisions) are third and fourth on these global rankings.
Most clubs, however, aren’t in the market for Håland and Sancho. Instead, many have to make complex comparisons between players like Nikola Krstović, whose 38 career goals have come in Montenegro and Serbia, and Kévin Denkey, who has scored 29 goals across four different French divisions, and mostly in the fourth and fifth tiers.
Having to assess performance at all these different levels can be challenging not just to the naked eye, but even with data. However, the Football Exchange Rate evaluates the standard of play in different leagues to create a consistent comparison. For the two players above, our model suggests that Denkey’s career return is the more impressive, despite having scored 9 fewer goals.
With clubs’ willingness and ability to spend likely to fall over the coming months and years, it’s possible that many will take the risk to recruit younger players on the basis that they tend to come at a lower cost. Being able to properly benchmark the early performance outputs of teenagers will be vital to executing this strategy successfully.