Analysing which leagues from around the world offer the best value for money

In the current financial climate, recruiting players who represent good value for money has never been more important. Football is a global industry, and a vital part of any scouting strategy is to identify leagues that consistently produce high quality players at an affordable price. We’ve analysed data from 53 leagues around the world to identify where the top value talent is currently located.

RATING PLAYER PERFORMANCE

We use our Performance Ratings to rate and compare players across different countries and leagues. The modelled values provide an indicator of a player’s current and future ability, weighted according to the level of football and opposition they typically come up against.

A player’s rating is based on their in-possession (Attacking) and out-of-possession (Defensive) contributions. Our performance models use machine learning to identify and value the most prominent features of successful play with and without the ball. This is then used to calculate a modelled value from 0-100 to rate the Attacking and Defensive ability of a player. We also rate the overall ability of a player using our Performance Rating, which is weighted depending on key performance stats and the significance of their Attacking and Defensive Ratings to their position.

PREDICTING PLAYER VALUE

Our Player Valuation model provides an objective view of a player’s market value, using every transfer over the past five seasons to identify trends in player performance and other statistics that correlate to a given transfer fee that has been paid. The model identifies a number of features that are used to predict the value of a player at a given point in time.

ANALYSING VALUE FOR MONEY ACROSS LEAGUES

Using our Performance Ratings and Player Valuation Model, we’ve taken an in-depth look at which leagues offer the best value-to-performance ratio across the three outfield positional groups.

The below charts identify which leagues represent the best source of immediate value. Therefore, leagues with more young players are disadvantaged as these players will have higher valuations due to their potential but lower performance ratings based on current ability.

The shaded area through the middle of each chart represents a Confidence Interval; any leagues close to or within this area have an average player value that is generally expected based on the average performance rating.

Leagues above the Confidence Interval represent good value for money based on the average performance of players, while leagues below the line are generally considered to offer poorer value. However, averaging the quality of a positional group within a league doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t quality players available. Certain clubs can be considered ‘outliers’, such as Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie or Porto and Benfica in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. These ‘outliers’ often have young, high potential players with a high valuation but lower performance ratings based on current ability.

CONCLUSIONS

Unsurprisingly, clubs can expect to pay a premium for established players from Europe’s top five leagues.

Spain’s La Liga ranks highest for the average performance of defenders and forwards, yet offers better value for money than the other big four European leagues in these positions.

Defenders and midfielders from the English Championship are much better value for money than those from Europe’s top five leagues, with their average performance rating on a similar level to France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A.

Brazil exports more footballers than any other country and our analysis shows a high amount of value in the country’s Serie A for defenders and forwards. New regulations regarding the recruitment of overseas players will make it easier for English clubs to sign players from the top Brazilian, Argentinian and Mexican leagues so we may see more South American players moving to the Premier League and EFL in the future.

For the best midfielders and forwards it pays to look outside the usual suspects. The Spanish Segunda División, Japanese J1 League and German 2. Bundesliga all offer an excellent combination of quality and value for money.

Germany’s 3. Liga is an interesting league if you’re a lower tier club looking to play smart in the transfer market. Norway’s Eliteserien, Italy’s Serie B and Denmark’s Superliga also offer good value-for-money for sides with a lower budget.

The Japanese J1 League stands out – particularly for defenders – with an average performance rating only slightly less than France’s Ligue 1 but significantly better value for money.

England’s Leagues One and Two also offer good value – especially for defenders and midfielders – but these players usually tend to stay within the domestic leagues rather than moving abroad.