Why do Liverpool need a transfer committee?

13.01.2014


Si Steers details the Liverpool transfer committee and explains how it has a critical role in the club’s future.


LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 25, 2012: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry and wife Linda Pizzuti during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg against Manchester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Since the inception of the transfer committee in autumn 2012 there has been a sense of expectation and scepticism about how much the committee can do to help drive the club forward.

The purpose of the transfer committee at Liverpool is clear: it is in place to give the club a competitive advantage in an environment where finances dominate your ability to compete.

In today’s game, intelligence can be as important as money when scouting players. A good scout will always be able to tell a good player. But what is more difficult to tell is how good that player will be in your team, and whether that players attributes, motivation and personality will thrive in your team dynamic.

The aesthetic sign to what makes a good player is usually purely based on performance, and that is the key driver behind cost. Players that are proven and have demonstrated consistency at a high level over a period of time do not come cheap. In fact, even players that have shown flashes of ability at a young age are now very expensive.

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So to get ahead of the game you need start looking beyond performance; by scouting attributes and performance, you open up an entirely new selection of players, and that is where you are more likely to find the value.

The philosophy

Barcelona president Joan Laporta once said “Some clubs buy Ballon d or winners, we make them”. That is also very true of Liverpool, especially at this stage in our evolution.

The investment in our transfer committee has a very transparent objective: and that is to source players that are affordable and that have the potential to reach the top of the game. The group of players at the very top of the game may represent instant value; but long term value is more difficult to find.

As an example; if you look at what Van Persie may contribute to United’s success for 3 years before he starts to decline at £24m (plus wages), at 24 years old and £12m what can Daniel Sturridge contribute to Liverpool right now and over the next 5=7 years? In terms of pure value for money, Sturridge can provide much better value to Liverpool than Van Persie will for United over the long term.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2013: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the second goal against Crystal Palace during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Daniel Sturridge is a great example of how the committee adds value. Sturridge has always had the attributes to be an elite striker, he has pace, power, technique and composure. But at 23 years old his career had hit a crossroads at Chelsea; he needed a coach and a club that would give him the platform to fulfill his potential.

Right now, Sturridge is looking like one of the best strikers in the Premier League, the committee is the mechanism to take that long term view of a player and make a judgment on whether they can reach the level of quality the club needs to progress.

The difficulty and frustration for supporters sometimes comes when rivals turn to ‘established names’ to provide an instant injection of quality. When you are investing in potential, it comes with a certain amount of unknowns. When you are investing in established quality, the risks are less. But they still exist.

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The Model

Analytics are becoming an influential tool in football. Big clubs are starting to see the benefits in gathering and analysing data to provide factual insight into every aspect of the game. Performance and fitness analytics are now beginning to reach a level of maturity; but the use of analytics in transfer activity is still relatively new.

This is an area where Liverpool is looking to be cutting edge. The traditional scouting model has always been reliant on the ‘eye’ of scouts on the ground. But Liverpool have realised that you need to look beyond that.

The methodology being applied at Liverpool will be based on a great deal of data that will arrive at a value parameter for a player. That data may include age, achievements, attributes, attitude, and injury record for example. The list isn’t exhaustive.

This model for identifying players by TTT scribe and professional data analyst Lee Mooney gives some excellent insight into how you can use data to drive your transfer strategy.

Winning team

Football is all about having a winning team on the pitch, but in today’s financially competitive game it is equally important to have a winning team off it as well. The investment in Liverpool’s transfer committee has poached Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows from Manchester City. Not quite as eye catching as poaching Sergio Aguero perhaps, but longer term, can have a much greater impact.

The team of Fallows and Hunter is complemented by Michael Edwards who is the Head of Analytics. The committee use an extensive database of players to inform decisions and strategy. Fallows said in 2010 “The traditional role of a scout, where they went to a match and kept all the knowledge in their head rarely exists in modern day scouting structures.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, June 1, 2012: Liverpool's new manager Brendan Rodgers next to managing director Ian Ayre (L) and chairman Tom Werner (R) during a photocall to announce him as the new manager of Liverpool Football Club at Anfield. (Pic by Chris Brunskill/Propaganda)

It is the role of the committee to identify the right players for Liverpool at the right cost. When Brendan Rodgers was appointed, that was an investment in an ideology, and to fit that ideology, you need a certain type of player. The biggest attributes that Rodgers seems to look for are technical ability and winning mentality.

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One of Rodgers greatest strengths is his coaching ability. The structure of the committee is reliant on good coaching; the strategy of bringing in players that are yet to reach peak needs a good coaching structure in place to develop players. From the academy through to the first team Liverpool has a very strong coaching team that has a great deal of experience in developing young players to an elite standard.

The transfer process and ITK’s

‘In The Know’ – what does that mean, exactly? It means that somebody has inside knowledge of what is happening in a football club; usually it is specifically to do with a transfer.

Transfers are likely managed from a small team and I would be shocked if information was leaked out casually from a club without a very specific purpose. If information is leaked, it is usually to a respected journalist who actually becomes part of the clubs transfer strategy. A football clubs PR department will likely keep very close tabs on transfer rumours and will probably work in a ‘smoke and mirrors’ kind of way to drive the best deal for the club (e.g. leaking a players name to throw the scent of a real target).

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, July 9, 2012: Liverpool's new manager Brendan Rodgers' image on a television camera during a press conference to launch the side's North American pre-season tour of Toronto, Baltimore and Boston at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, it is impossible for any club to manage the narrative on player transfers. In multi million pound deals, clubs can use the media to gain a competitive advantage. For example, it is in a selling clubs interests to leak bids for a player to drive the highest possible value. It is also in the agent’s interests to leak a bid to source the best possible deal for a player. We have seen it many times. But this is all information that quickly becomes public knowledge.

The transfer process has actually become a bit of a pantomime. The brilliant ‘Duncan Jenkins’ masterfully unpicked just how easy it is to become an ITK – based purely on keeping ahead of the rumour mill. Jenkins was so good in fact that Liverpool believed there was a genuine leak; where in fact, there was none. And there is likely a very good reason for that – if you worked in a position for Liverpool involved in player transfers – would you risk your job by disclosing commercially sensitive information?

Transfers are such a complex world; they are a negotiation of multi million pound assets, it isn’t just the fee, it is also the wages over the life of a contract that makes it a huge investment. As an example, if a club buys a player for £8m on a 4 year deal worth £40k a week, that is an investment of over £16m. And in today’s market, that investment is very unlikely to get you the ‘finished product’.

So, whilst there maybe people that have access to information on occasion, most likely journalists, it is very probable that clubs are using them as a pawn in the transfer game. I think you have to take the vast majority of what ITK’s say – even journalists – with a huge pinch of salt.

Conclusion

The Liverpool transfer committee is in place to give the club a competitive advantage. It is an investment in the top talent in the player recruitment space; with the aim to source and scout players that have the quality and mentality to play for Liverpool, but have not yet caught the eye of the world.

There probably weren’t many football fans that didn’t follow Dortmund’s progress last year with an envious eye. As I look at in detail in this comparison I think there is a real similarity in how Dortmund have built a team capable of competing and the journey Liverpool are taking.

Dortmund has been one of the smartest clubs in world football and has integrated great young players like Mario Gotze with smart buys like Robert Lewandowski (who only actually cost £4.5m) into a team that became greater than the sum of its parts.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, August 18, 2011: Liverpool's new signing Jose Enrique during a press conference at the club's Melwood Training Ground. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Football transfers are complex; and there will be variations of Liverpool’s transfer committee at most big clubs across Europe. So what is it that will give Liverpool an edge? Essentially what the club have done is recruited who they believe to be the very best people in the scouting space in Hunter and Fallows; they are using intelligence led data to identify and value the right players.

The club recognise that they will be recruiting players still in a development phase; so will need a strong coaching structure to complement the transfer strategy.

There will always be exceptions; and the club has proven with the signing of Sakho it is willing to invest in an established name if the deal is right. But the broad strategy of recruiting the ‘balloon d’or’ winners of the future is very much what the committee is in place to do, and in my view is absolutely the right direction for the club.

If you look at the Willian deal as well – whilst he looks to be a very good player – there has been little evidence to suggest he looks like a £30m player. There was no value to be had from that deal – and by walking away from it, Raheem Sterling has been given the opportunity to flourish. It is those kinds of calls that the club has to get right, and the committee helps with those decisions.

The transfer committee has a critical role in the club’s future; it can be the difference between competing or not. Beyond all of the speculation and media that surrounds transfer windows; there is a strategy and structure at work at Liverpool that can give the club that competitive advantage. They won’t get everything right, but it is unrealistic to expect them to.

They have made a significant contribution to the clubs push towards the top four this season, if we can return to the Champions League; they will probably find that players such as Mkhitaryan are more easily attainable.

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Si Steers

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32 COMMENTS

      • sorry when have i ever called for rafa or kenny to come back talking bullsh1t again ,i have always said kenny should have been given more time ,and as for rafa well thats never going to happen he speaks his mind and thats something fsg do not want

  1. It’s worked well, we have brought in young players who will improve us now and in the future, but also let us grow As a team, good buys aswell, Sturridge,coutinho mignolet,sahko, also Ilori and Alberto who are young and very gifted.

    • I wouldn’t buy the IPad over a galaxy nexus because the iPad may be better and the one everyone wants but they are not team players and have a superiority complex that can ruin the team spirit

  2. Mentioning Borini (having a great spell at Sunderland), Assaidi (also doing great on his loan spell) and Allen (if SG8 holds his place as a holding MF, I can’t wait to see Allen work his magic further up the pitch) in that tone just shows off your ignorance… And don’t forget, Moses and Cissokho are loans, just as Sahin. ^^

  3. Sahin, Cissokho, moses were all on loan. Assaidi was less than 5M. Borini and Allen are young and unproven. Stop being a pessimist.

    • As above for the loans. Time will tell on Assaidi Borini and Allen but I can’t help being pessimistic when I see money wasted that could have been spent better

      • Ridiculous argument – Coutinho and Sturridge were signed BELOW their value so in effect nullifies any perceived over-paying for others (which occurred before the committee).

        You can’t moan about spending too much on x player without recognising that y player cost too low. That’s how transfers work.

        No manger has more than a 50% success rate with transfers, it’s impossible to get them all exactly right. Oh, unless you play on Football Manager of course.

        • Fair point about the 50% rate but i feel we are well below that although as others have pointed out perhaps players some need more time. I deliberately did not include Alberto or illori for that reason but i accept it might also apply to some of the others I mentioned, All of this is just opinions and we’re all different – especially me!

      • We were all saying that Jordan Henderson was a waste of money and should be sold, I thought this as well. He looked awful when he was first in the side and now he is one of our constant contributors. We need to give players like Allen and Borini some time(even though to be fair, I don’t see where Borini fits into our squad.)

  4. You’d prefer we signed Moses, Sahin and Cissokho before realising they aren’t good enough / what we want?

    Not to mention the fact none of Assaidi, Allen, Borini and Sahin were signed by the committee, which wasn’t in place when they were signed.

    But don’t let the truth get in the way of your inaccuracies.

    • No I would prefer the checks were done better to make sure they were needed and up to the job. Your second point is fair enough though and only time will tell if the committee is the answer..

        • yes all the big clubs let there top players go on loan ,if they are cutting the mustard they would be playing for there own side ,unless its for experience the 3 you mention are experienced pros

  5. best post I’ve heard all day.

    Seems so tough to weed out those who struggle with the EPL.

    eg look as sterling, allen and coutinho and suso. You would think they wouldn’t stand the physical side of the EPL but they’re fine.

    Yet, Aspas is totally overwhelmed by it.

    So tough to judge when the technical players are often small or high priced expensive CL players.

  6. the main point about the committee and strategy is to buy players who are not fully valued. That makes them wise buys and supports the future of the club as their asset value is so much higher.

    That offsets failures especially if you haven’t paid a lot for them in the first place, eg Aspas, Assaidi.

    Even Borini I think will be a break even player when we sell him. Assaidi will make a profit and Aspas will go for at least £5m.

    Allen will be worth his price if he can stay fit, likely a problem because he is pretty young but not for long and Hendo will exceed his price if he can sort his head and actually score from opportunities. He can be so uncool sometimes, snatches at things.

    But the problem is, the more you progress, the harder it gets because they absolutely HAVE to be high quality signings and you can only buy so many “future potential” players that are 21.

    We could really do with a Rakitic type of player but CL clubs are going to challenge us for them and they won’t be under valued.

    So we wait to see if we can still find under used players at the “wrong club” for them. But it’s going to be harder each window and may prove impossible even now due to the standard we’ve reached.

  7. I remember Rafa signing a long haired Brazilian who got tortures by the fans when he first came to the club. He struggled to settle and many were chanting from the rafter for him to go. Now that very same player, is the key to our engine room, said player Lucas.

    Borini, Allen and Assaidi are all good players, who have found it hard to settle in the leagues and the club on a hold, but if we are patient with them as we were with Lucas, Skrtel and Agger (injury issues), then I believe these players will fulfil their potentials.

  8. Football is now a proper business and in any hugely successful business, major financial decisions aren’t made by one person. There has got to be a team of people available to carry out every single bit of analysis as possible before an informed decision can be made.

    So in essence, the appointment of a transfer committee makes a lot of sense. The only thing is, it seems to be relatively new to European football, but if we look at North American sporting franchises, this has been in place for decades now.

  9. In terms of pure value for money, Sturridge can provide much better
    value to Liverpool than Van Persie will for United over the long term.

    You say this as if it is chiseled in stone. This depends. RVP has already made a massive contribution to United’s success and If he helps deliver more trophies and/or continued champs league football, then he’d have provided good value both in the present and in the future (whether he stays at the club or not).

  10. The Transfer Committee makes sense. More eyes looking at the players brought in. However the important part is how good are those people in the Committee, rather than the actually idea itself.

    So far it has been a bit hit and miss, with more misses than hits on current form. I presume Ayre is in there for a money dealing imput, however if he is in there to help with how good the player we are looking at is, then that seems a glaring error as he is not a scout.

    I was a bit let down with the players we brought in over the summer but am willing to let that slip if the ones we bring in, in this window are better. I can then take last summers as bulking out the squad.

  11. I neve said it was easy that’s why they are all paid so much and yes like you I have opinions and like yours sometimes I’ll be right but mostly I’ll be wrong..

  12. Good article but I must say the work the “committee” has done has been far from great in my opinion. With illori rumoured to be heading out on loan, aspas looking out of his depth, Alberto being far from impressive I can only say it hasnt worked. Never mind Allen, borini and assaidi. Sakho and mignolet were already established players when they signed. Fair enough they got coutinho and sturridge but they will only come around once in a few years. We need invedtment to make top four, Rodgers said himself the squad needs strengthening. Take Mohamed salah, rumours havr it we are hagling over a fee, believed to be 12 mill, now he suits us and we need him. He’s a young prospect, already shown he csn do it against top teams so I struggle to see the problem with paying 12 mill. This method worked so well for Dortmund because they had Munich for competition and thsts it, not 7 teams who could potentially win the league. We need champions league this year, what will happen in yhe summer if we font get it? Lose Suarez, miss our targets again and resort to bargain basement players. This I’d our best chance to get top 4, the committee need to take this chance and spend, im not saying overspend but spend wisely.

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