Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 2)

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After several successive failures and disappointments from the German Bundesliga into the Premier League, the term ‘Bundesliga Tax’ has been making the rounds. The premise? That players from the Bundesliga traditionally perform worse upon arriving to the Premier League, unable to cope with the demands of the league for whatever rhyme or reason.

It’s easy to use the eye test and conclude that players like Jadon Sancho and Timo Werner haven’t lived up to the hype. In a recent video, Tifo Football suggested that this phenomenon doesn’t just apply to Bundesliga clubs, but a range of leagues around the world. So with that, we aim to use data from the 2021-22 season to determine whether or not ‘Bundesliga Tax’ is a real phenomenon, and what leagues Premier League clubs should prioritize in sending their scouts to this summer. Here is our analysis of what we’re dubbing ‘EPL Transfer Tax’.

In Part 2, we examine the league’s mid-table sides (8th to 14th) based on points during the 2021-22 campaign, drawing conclusions around the business that each club conducted across the season. In turn, this could inform decision making ahead of the 2022-23 season, and potentially the wider future at play.

METHODOLOGY

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We analyzed all signings made in the summer prior to the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season, in addition to all signings made after the league kicked off, across all twenty clubs. This included both loans and permanent transfers, extending to loans from 2020-21 that became permanent deals in 2021-22 (such as in the case of Mateta and Odegaard). In cases where players were signed in 2020-21, but were then loaned back to other clubs without making a single Premier League appearance until 2021-22, we again included those names in our data (such as in the case of Wolves defender Toti). We then analyzed statistical ratings of players during Premier League matches from four different sources – FotMob, WhoScored?, SofaScore, and our own ‘Role Continuity Evaluation System‘.

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We utilized FotMob, Sofascore and WhoScored? within our search due to their relative reliability in assessing players based purely on statistical metrics in a variety of categories, and the slight differences in how they evaluate performance. However, our Role Continuity System is the only one that takes into account a player’s position and role, and the relative facets of the player’s game that may be more relevant than others. As an example of illustrating the importance of this, FotMob and WhoScored are notoriously low on goalkeepers, as they don’t tend to involve themselves in the statistical metrics that are used to assess their overall performance.

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We use statistics when evaluating players in our ‘Role Continuity Evaluation System’, but concomitantly utilize the ‘eye test’ in assessing decision making processes, IQ, and the more difficult to quantify off-the-ball metrics – particularly those that are integral to a player’s role within their team. This is to say that our system provides its own unique advantages, but inherently creates biases, which we aim to balance out by providing three other sources of ‘Player Ratings’.

In order to be included in our dataset, players had to make a minimum of 1 appearance in the Premier League this season. While 1 Premier League appearance tells us very little, it still paints a relatively clear picture as to that player’s level of success at their new club. However, due to the small sample size of their ‘AVG Rating’, we eliminated all players to make less than 3 Premier League appearances in the final ‘Tax’ conclusions – when comparing the relative successes of players moving from different leagues.

LIMITATIONS

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While we aim to shed light on the relative ‘taxes’ of different leagues in correspondence to the Premier League, we recognize that this study has a few key limitations.

Firstly, the data is limited in that it does not take into account any metric on a per 90 basis. Statistical scores on all four platforms generally favour players that accumulate more minutes on a football pitch, and don’t always take into account the limited minutes of substitutes in particular. However, in other ways, this is a strength. Players that accumulate more minutes generally play a more integral role to their team’s success or lack thereof, and therefore should be given greater attention.

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Secondly, the study is limited in that it does not make reference to how a player performed in any previous campaign (such as the season before). We therefore have not attempted to draw any conclusions as to whether or not a player has seen an improvement or dip in form following their move. Instead, our aim is to illustrate the relative success stories of players moving from different leagues around the world, and identify which leagues have generally seen more success stories than others.

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Finally, while our ‘Player Evaluation System’ takes into account a player’s role, it fails to account for the club’s masterplan for that player. Some players are brought in to be superstars and start every week, while others are added to the mix for the long-term health of a club. Back-up goalkeepers for example will have lower scores across the board. This doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the leagues in which those players arrive from, but their own inability to be better than someone else already at the club.

With that, let’s analyze the mid-table sides from 2021-22, and identify who made the smartest signings, and where those successful signings were most likely to arrive from.

ASTON VILLA

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ASTON VILLA (8)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Philippe Coutinho7.007.096.967.097.04La Liga
Lucas Digne6.947.026.946.946.96Premier League
Emiliano Buendía6.956.946.756.956.90EFL Championship
Calum Chambers6.796.776.796.906.81Premier League
Danny Ings6.816.806.656.806.76Premier League
Ashley Young6.636.786.436.746.65Serie A
Leon Bailey6.426.416.406.756.50German Bundesliga
Robin Olsen5.805.406.146.105.86Premier League
Team Average6.68

Aston Villa had one of the busiest seasons for transfers, signing eight players across the course of the campaign. With so many new faces entering the door, it became difficult for the Villains to properly incorporate all of the names listed above, with none standing out to extreme heights. Emi Buendia, Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings each showed moments of promise and fervidness in attack, but never found full consistency. With his dreadful injury record continuing at Villa Park, Leon Bailey can be considered the most disappointing of their transfers, accumulating an abysmal player score of 6.50 within our search. With their disappointing team average of 6.68, Villa only provide more support for the ‘less is more’ argument raised in Part 1.

BRENTFORD

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BRENTFORD (7)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Christian Eriksen7.567.697.377.547.54Serie A
Kristoffer Ajer6.826.956.736.846.84Scottish Premiership
Yoane Wissa6.776.656.526.826.69Ligue 1
Mathias Jorgensen6.556.566.476.736.58Danish Superliga
Frank Onyenka6.506.556.376.636.51Danish Superliga
Álvaro Fernández6.766.016.466.826.51La Liga
Jonas Lossl5.895.305.556.005.69Premier League
Team Average6.62

Brentford’s recruitment prior to the 2021-22 season ended up being relatively woeful and insufficient. Fortunately, they made the smart signing of Christian Eriksen in January on a short-term deal, securing one of the best players in the league in the latter half of the campaign. Eriksen excelled for Brentford as a ‘Deep-Lying-Playmaker’, helping steer the Bees away from relegation. Although not entirely convincing, Alvaro Fernandez, Kristoffer Ajer and Yoane Wissa also played their part in the Bees’ impressive survival. But while signing players from the Danish Superliga makes logistical sense for Brentford and fits well with the vibe of the team and the manager himself, our data suggests that Thomas Frank may want to think twice before splashing the cash on any future additions from the Danish top flight.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

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BRIGHTON (4)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Marc Cucurella7.297.426.947.117.19La Liga
Moisés Caicedo7.117.417.087.047.16Belgian Pro League
Shane Duffy6.936.996.887.136.98Scottish Premiership
Enock Mwepu6.826.856.666.786.78Austrian Bundesliga
Team Average7.03

Known for making astute, unexpected signings in the Graham Potter era, Brighton were once again one of the shrewdest Premier League sides in both transfer windows, securing the signatures of Marc Cucurella and Moisés Caicedo to tremendous success. Both unknown figureheads vastly improved the Seagulls with their effervescent versatility upon arrival, as Shane Duffy and Enock Mwepu provided steady rotation options for Graham Potter’s masterplans. Having made just 4 signings, Potter found an easier time ingratiating new faces into his team, giving each their moment to shine. Cucurella even ended as the club’s Player of the Season, after his remarkably successful campaign fulfilling roles as a ‘Wing-Back’ and ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Half.’

CRYSTAL PALACE

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CRYSTAL PALACE (7)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Conor Gallagher7.267.247.087.087.17Premier League
Marc Guehi7.117.046.767.036.99EFL Championship
Joachim Andersen6.966.916.666.926.86Premier League
Michael Olise6.916.956.666.916.86EFL Championship
Will Hughes6.756.966.536.826.77EFL Championship
Odsonne Edouard6.736.786.666.816.75Scottish Premiership
Jean-Philippe Mateta*6.786.606.646.776.70Premier League/German Bundesliga
Team Average6.87

In many ways, Crystal Palace help to break the mold, and illustrate different ways of smartly conducting business in the Premier League. They secured several impressive signings from the EFL Championship (like Guehi and Olise) and cut-price gems who spent last season on loan at relegated Premier League sides (like Andersen and Gallagher). Even their lowest rated player here in Jean-Philippe Mateta can be considered a success, and a smart re-signing that massively contributed to their attack in the final half of the campaign. Palace’s astute business from the Championship may pave the way for more clubs to utilize England’s second tier to improve upon their starting eleven. Championship lads are often familiar with the demands of playing in England, speak the language, and understand the culture, all of which may lead to greater success in their first season in the Prem.

LEICESTER CITY

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LEICESTER CITY  (5)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Ademola Lookman6.716.766.646.736.71Premier League
Patson Daka6.686.586.456.736.61Austrian Bundesliga
Boubakary Soumaré6.496.786.426.626.58Ligue 1
Jannik Vestergaard6.466.546.446.766.55Premier League
Ryan Bertrand6.166.156.106.456.22Premier League
Team Average6.53

Leicester City’s summer business looked incredibly encouraging, with Brendan Rodgers and co. preparing for another European football hunt. Instead, they spent the entire season stuck in the middle, eventually climbing up to eighth as they caught up on their fixtures. None of their new signings ignited the flame that Rodgers hoped for, with Soumaré, Vestergaard and Bertrand only falling further down the pecking order as the season wore on. We’ve already discussed how Patson Daka evidently has a bright future ahead of him, but unless Soumaré drastically improves, this will be a summer to forget for the Foxes. Whether it be poor planning, poor recruitment or something greater at hand, Leicester City crucially lower the aggregate score of players moving from one Premier League club to another in this section.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

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NEWCASTLE  UNITED (6)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Kieran Trippier7.407.647.387.387.45La Liga
Bruno Guimaraes7.217.407.047.257.23Ligue 1
Dan Burn7.097.026.986.987.02Premier League
Matt Targett7.057.006.996.967.00Premier League
Chris Wood6.836.576.726.776.72Premier League
Joe Willock6.706.856.596.716.71Premier League
Team Average7.02

While Leicester struggled to find the right Premier League players to integrate into their squad, Newcastle United accomplished that feat better than anyone, perfectly integrating some of the league’s underrated and undervalued stars into their team, in the exact positions of need. Even despite having a near unlimited budget to spend, Newcastle astutely went about their business in January, securing inexpensive deals for players guaranteed to improve the squad at Premier League level. Trippier and Bruno seamlessly came over from La Liga and Ligue 1 respectively, with each of their four Premier League signings playing an important part in the club’s 11th place finish.

WOLVES

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WOLVES (5)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Jose Sa7.326.906.817.097.03Primeira Liga
Toti*6.957.207.016.907.02Primeira Liga
Chiquinho6.796.886.556.986.80Primeira Liga
Trincao6.806.936.586.806.78La Liga
Hee-Chan Hwang6.746.746.536.746.69German Bundesliga
Team Average6.86

Wolves were another team that excelled in their transfer business across 2021-22, most notably in securing one of the signings of the season in Jose Sa. The Portuguese keeper perfectly fit Bruno Lage’s style, whilst providing a serious mobility upgrade on the aging Rui Patricio. Hee-Chan Hwang performed well when given time to shine, but spent much of the season out injured or on the bench to make the impact he would have hoped. Toti meanwhile successfully played his first few matches for the club after being loaned out for nearly two seasons at Grasshopper in the Swiss Super League. Wolves clearly have a great relationship with the Primeira Liga, consistently showcasing Portugal’s top flight as a viable option for Premier League clubs to secure inexpensive yet fruitful deals.

team rankings

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RANKTEAMAVG SCORE# OF PLAYERS
1Brighton & Hove Albion7.034
2Newcastle United7.026
3Crystal Palace6.877
4Wolves6.865
5Aston Villa6.688
6Brentford6.627
7Leicester City6.535

Correlation never equals causation, but it’s worth pointing out here that Brighton, Newcastle, Palace and Wolves all expanded on their league finish and points totals from 2020-21, and rank as our top four mid-table teams when it comes to integrating new signings. Meanwhile, Villa and Leicester both dropped in their league position and points won, and rank aptly as two of our bottom three mid-table clubs. Similarly to City winning last round on just one new player, Brighton also top the charts with the fewest amount of new signings in the group on four. So once again…

LESS IS MORE

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When it comes to signing new players, our data illustrates that less may be more. It becomes more difficult to appropriately integrate several new faces into a team, and give each their own opportunity to shine in a team. Aston Villa for example struggled to integrate all of their eight new signings into the team, with the vast majority of their new faces playing bit-part roles at best. Going against the grain, Newcastle made six successful signings, whilst Palace made seven resounding ones, placing second and third in our dataset of mid-table clubs. Importantly, as we posited last time, both Newcastle and Palace worked to identify players that would improve their respective starting elevens, rather than players that would need time to adjust to the demands of the league. Brighton did exactly the same, and it’s why all three clubs can walk away from the 2021-22 in such high spirits, knowing they’re now in good standing to pull off more miracles in 2022-23. But across the board, once again, less may be more when it comes to signing new players from one season to the next.

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So with that, let’s finally examine the relative ‘tax’ of each respective league after players make their first appearance in the Premier League.

WHERE TO SIGN PLAYERS?

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Our data once again shows that Serie A may be the best place to sign “Premier League ready” footballers, due in large part to the success of Christian Eriksen within this grouping of mid-table teams. Notably, players from La Liga fared particularly well in this section, perhaps illustrating that Spanish league players are more up for the challenge when moving to a mid-table side, rather than one of the league’s biggest hitters. Players from the EFL Championship also performed admirably across the board in their first season in the league for mid-table teams, which can also be said of the Scottish Premiership and the Primeira Liga.

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When it comes to mid-table sides, there may be a higher level of variability by which clubs can sign successful players from a variety of different sources. Only the Danish Superliga, Austrian Bundesliga and German Bundesliga featured a below than average player score in 2021-22 of mid-table Premier League squads, with not a single player from those three leagues excelling as a consistent starter this campaign.

Our data therefore suggests that the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, and EFL Championship are the best places to sign Premier League ready footballers for mid-table teams in the league, with Ligue 1, the Scottish Premiership and Primeira Liga also great options that could be explored in greater detail if more signings were to be made in the future.

RANKLEAGUETOP PLAYERAVG SCORE# ELIG. PLAYERS
1Serie AChristian Eriksen (7.54)7.092
2La LigaKieran Trippier (7.45)6.995
3Primeira LigaJose Sa (7.03)6.953
4EFL ChampionshipMarc Guehi (6.99)6.884
5Scottish PremiershipShane Duffy (6.98)6.853
6Ligue 1Bruno Guimaraes (7.23)6.833
7Premier LeagueConor Gallagher (7.17)6.7813
8Austrian BundesligaEnock Mwepu (6.78)6.692
9German BundesligaJean-Philippe Mateta (6.70)6.633
10Danish SuperligaMathias Jorgensen (6.58)6.552
+Belgian Pro LeagueMoisés Caicedo (7.16)7.161

Unfortunately for the Bundesliga, our data suggests that the ‘Bundesliga Tax’ may be a real phenomenon. While a few abysmally bad performers lowered the score of the Premier League, the Bundesliga signings of Hwang, Mateta and Bailey were simply underwhelming at best, across the board. Even their neighbours over in Austria surpass Germany’s top flight in our mid-table data, with La Liga seeing a serious rebound from Part 1.

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In Part 1, we hypothesized that it may be an arm and a leg for top Premier League clubs to lure La Liga’s superstars over to the dark side, since most of them already play for Real Madrid or Barcelona. But mid-table teams have a broader range of players to scout from, as illustrated by Brighton’s brilliant move for Getafe’s Marc Cucurella, or Brentford’s securement of Alvaro Fernandez on loan from Huesca. Mid-table teams even provide the perfect destination for players struggling to accumulate proper minutes at a giant like Barcelona, such as seen with Philippe Coutinho and Trincao moving to Villa and Wolves respectively.

Before concluding, it may be interesting to see more arrivals from the Belgian Pro League in the future, after Moisés Caicedo ended as a resounding success in 2021-22. All and all, mid-table teams have a broad range of leagues that they can scout from, and may find gems hidden all over the place. But La Liga and Serie A appear to be the soundest options when scouting players now across the fourteen clubs studied so far, if not the Premier League itself or the EFL Championship a level below.

CONCLUSION

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After examining fourteen Premier League sides, we are getting closer to the truth. Bundesliga Tax may very well be a real thing. Whether it’s the nature of players signing from the league in comparison to others, or simply something wrong with their ability to adapt, players coming over from Germany’s top flight have ranked consistently lower than players arriving from other leagues. Our data illustrates player performance on a range of statistical categories in and out of possession, whilst aiming to utilize our Role Continuity System in establishing important traits and characteristics specific to a player’s role.

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Following up from our hypothesis posed in the previous round that players between the age of 22 and 24 may be idealistic signings for Premier League teams, six of the eleven league leaders in this section were aged 20-24 (Caicedo, Gallagher, Guehi, Guimaraes, Mateta, and Mwepu). Marc Cucurella, Toti and Emiliano Buendia provide further fruit to the argument, having each signed for their new clubs before their 24th birthday.

This round of data also provides further evidence to the obvious but important argument that players signed to be immediate starters at their new club consistently perform better than those brought in to be rotation options. The likes of Jose Sa, Dan Burn and Matt Targett immediately excelled in their new clubs by providing instant upgrades on what the club previously possessed. Clubs should therefore focus on adding high-quality players to their greatest positions of need when searching for immediate improvements (such as Burn and Targett), rather than rotation options that might not set the league on fire (such as Vestergaard and Bertrand).

After part three, we’ll be examining each of these questions in greater depth. But part three itself is still to come, as we analyze the signings from each of this season’s ‘relegation-threatened’ clubs. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 1).


So there it is! A dialogue about the concept of ‘Bundesliga Tax’ and our attempt to measure the relative ‘Tax’ for each league when players arrive into the Prem. Be sure to check out more of our Tactical Analyses, Transfer Market Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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