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The CIES Football Observatory launches the 2013 Annual Review

The Annual Review notably reveals that Lionel Messi would largely break the 94-million euro transfer fee record. Estimated on the basis of an exclusive econometric model, his value is between 217 and 252 million euro. With an estimated value between 102 and 118 million, Cristiano Ronaldo would probably also break his own record.

At club level, the analysis shows that Barcelona holds the greatest assets from a player economic value perspective: 658 million euro. This figure is three times higher than that spent on signing the players used during the 2012/13 season. This reflects the extraordinary ability of the Catalan side to train, launch and add value to home-grown players.

Lionel Messi is not only the most expensive big-5 league player, but also the most decisive one for the 2012/13 season. The ranking is based on the performances for five key indicators: shooting, chance creation, take on, distribution and recovery. The Argentinean outranks Champions League winner Franck Ribéry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The most decisive young player was Mario Götze. The new Bayern Munich signing is followed by two very promising Belgian footballers belonging to Chelsea: Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. They definitively both deserve to have a chance to play for the London club.

The performance analysis at club level shows that Bayern Munich’s fantastic season was the result of the unmatched balance between attack, distribution and defence. The Champions League winner tops the German Bundesliga rankings for the three key team performance indicators covered by our analysis: defensive solidity, grip on the game and attacking incisiveness. No other champion was able to do so.

The 2013 Annual Review also investigates the evolution in competitive balance within leagues since 2003/04. With the exception of Italy, point gaps between teams are on the increase. This trend is particularly marked in Spain and Germany. Over the last decade, the three most successful clubs achieved more than 60% of podium ranks in all the leagues, up to 80% in Spain and England (24 out of 30).

In 2012/13, money spent in transfer fees to sign first team players was highly correlated to club results in all the leagues. All the champions were among the three biggest spenders in their respective league. This confirms the strong influence of money on success.

Without new regulatory mechanisms to improve income distribution, competitive balance will be further jeopardised by the transformation of top level clubs into global brands, their regular participation in the increasingly lucrative Champions League and investments made by wealthy owners.

The Annual Review is on sale as a pdf on the CIES online shop. Journalists, students and academics may obtain a discount by writing to football.observatory@cies.ch. Please write to the same address for more information.

Big-5 league predictions: end of season assessment

Furthermore, two teams that we categorised as main outsiders for a podium finish also achieved this goal: Chelsea and Lyon. The remaining team which finished in the top three, Bayer Leverkusen, was forecast to finish 5th according to our model. Of the clubs that we expected to be classified on the podium, the worst result was obtained by Lille (6th), while Arsenal and Schalke 04 just missed this objective (4th).

Generally speaking, our objective was to have an average gap between ranking estimated and obtained of “lower than 4 in all the leagues”. This target was achieved with the following average ranking gaps: Italy 2.4, England 2.9, Germany 2.9, France 3.1 and Spain x.x.

The highest positive gaps per league between ranking achieved and estimated were measured for the following clubs: Nice (+11), Freiburg (+11), Rayo Vallecano and Betis Sevilla (+10), Norwich (+8) and Cagliari (+7). Conversely, the highest negative gaps were recorded for Mallorca (-10), Sunderland (-9), Brest (-8), Stuttgart (-8) and Sampdoria (-6).

With regard to the eventual league champions, it was impossible to do worse than the previous season (0 out of 5). This year we are pleased to have forecast four title winners (all except Manchester United). This is one more than in the previous record season (2010/11). However, the proportion for the three last seasons is still inferior to 50% (7 out of 15).

We are also pleased to announce that the eighth edition of the Annual Review will be published on the 13th of June. It will for the first time include an estimate of the economic value of big-5 league players according to a cutting-edge econometric model exclusively developed by the CIES Football Observatory academic team.

Ribéry best performing big-5 league player … after Messi

Based on data provided by our partner OptaPro, the CIES Football Observatory rankings take into account pitch productivity in five key areas of the game: shooting, chance creation, take on, distribution and recovery (see below for more details). By weighting each indicator according to the strength of its correlation with club results, we obtain a general index highlighting the most decisive footballers.

Rankings of the ten best performing players in the five major European championships can be found in the final Big-5 Weekly Post of the season. This can now be downloaded from the CIES Football Observatory website.

Barcelona players feature at the top of three rankings out of the five concerning the key areas of the game covered by our analysis: Messi for shooting, Iniesta for chance creation and Xavi for distribution. This demonstrates that the recent success of the Catalan side is not only due to great individual talent, but is also the result of optimal labour division and the distribution of complementary skills amongst their team. Ribéry was the most productive and efficient player for take on, while Chielllini tops the ranking for recovery.

An in-depth analysis of big-5 league clubs and players will be available in the forthcoming eighth edition of the CIES Football Observatory Annual Review. The new Review will be launched on the 13th June 2013. For the first time, this exclusive reference publication will present the economic value of big-5 league players using a new econometric model. This is based on the detailed analysis of the characteristics of nearly 1,000 players transferred for a fee by big-5 league clubs since 2009/10. The development of such a model marks a crucial step in the evolution of our research project.

For more information on our work and to pre-order the Annual Review, please write to football.observatory@cies.ch

Methodological note: specifications of indicators

Shooting measures the effectiveness of players to shoot and score goals, excluding penalties. Chance creation refers to the ability of players to put teammates into shooting positions, with particular emphasis on goal assists. Take on highlights footballers who are both productive and efficient in dribbling, crossing and winning corners. Distribution refers to the ability of players to make accurate passes, above all in the opposition half. Finally, recovery brings to the fore players whose tackling and interceptions minimise the chances for opponents to score goals and shoot, especially from close range.

Big-5 Weekly Post - Issue 37

The CIES Football Observatory is pleased to inform you that a new edition of the Big-5 Weekly Post is available to download for free on our website. The latest issue considers the subject of footballers running out of their contracts.

Leagues with the most / least percentage of minutes played by footballers running out of their contracts (last week-end)

Italian Serie A 27.6 / English Premier League 6.7

Clubs with the most percentage of minutes played by footballers running out of their contracts (last week-end

1. AC Siena (ITA) 71.2 - 2. Rayo Vallecano (ESP) 65.9 - 3. Pescara Calcio (ITA) 63.6

We are also pleased to present you the most productive players for each of the big-5 European leagues in last week-end matches.

Most productive players, general index (last week-end)

ENG: P. Coutinho (Liverpool)/ ESP: É. Banega (Valencia) / FRA: Brandao (Marseille) / GER: F. Ribéry (Bayern) / ITA: A. Ljajić (Fiorentina)

The most productive players per area of the game also available on our website. Enjoy the read!

Big-5 Weekly Post - Issue 36

The CIES Football Observatory is pleased to inform you that a new edition of the Big-5 Weekly Post is available to download for free on our website. The latest issue considers the subject of African players (players who grew up in a African country and who went abroad following recruitment
by a club overseas).

Leagues with the most / least percentage of minutes played by African players (last week-end)

French Ligue 1 13.2 / Italian Serie A 1.4

Clubs with the most percentage of minutes played by African players (last week-end

1. Stade Rennais FC (FRA) 35.5 - 2. Valenciennes FC, Lille OSC (FRA) 27.3

We are also pleased to present you the most productive players for each of the big-5 European leagues in last week-end matches.

Most productive players, general index (last week-end)

ENG: D. Sturridge (Liverpool)/ ESP: A. Guardado (Valencia) / FRA: R. Rodelin (Lille) / GER: F. Ribéry (Bayern) / ITA: A. Vidal (Juventus)

The most productive players per area of the game also available on our website. Enjoy the read!

Big-5 Weekly Post - Issue 35

Dear Subscriber,

the CIES Football Observatory is pleased to inform you that the latest issue of the Big-5 Weekly Post is now available to download for free on our website. This issue presents the most productive players in the big-5 leagues during April.

Thanks to the data provided by Opta Pro, our analysis concerns five key areas of the game: shooting, chance creation, take on, distribution, and recovery. The general index is the weighted sum of all these specific indicators. In April, the most productive players overall were:

  • Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool FC) in England
  • Alexis Sánchez (FC Barcelona) in Spain
  • Rémy Cabella (Montpellier HSC) in France
  • Claudio Pizarro (FC Bayern München) in Germany
  • Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo US) in Italy

Some players from middle or bottom ranked clubs also performed particularly well in specific areas of the game. For example, Andros Townsend (Queens Park Rangers FC) was the most productive player in take on for England and Thiago Xavier (ES Troyes) is at the top of the table in recovery in France.

The CIES Football Observatory academic team is at your disposal for more information.

Kind regards

Raffaele Poli, head of CIES Football Observatory

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