Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 3)

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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’.

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In Part 3, we examine the league’s relegation-threatened teams (15th to 20th) 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, particularly for bottom-feeder clubs attempting to survive next season.

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. 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 bottom six sides in the Premier League’s 2021-22 season, and identify who made the smartest signings, and where those successful signings were most likely to arrive from.

BURNLEY

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BURNLEY (5)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Nathan Collins6.877.116.897.086.99EFL Championship
Connor Roberts6.806.956.616.906.82EFL Championship
Maxwel Cornet6.766.756.696.846.76Ligue 1
Wout Weghorst6.696.636.626.786.68German Bundesliga
Wayne Hennessey6.466.076.446.556.38Premier League
Team Average6.72

Burnley are never one to make a big splash in the transfer market, and in 2021-22 they added smart additions to their team without breaking the bank. Connor Roberts and Nathan Collins played important roles in the second half of the campaign, again providing credence for the Championship as a valuable gateway into the Premier League. Maxwel Cornet and Wout Weghorst were also brought in to add greater reinforcements up front, but neither set the world on fire or ultimately helped the Clarets stay in the division. While an average score of 6.72 isn’t phenomenal, it is one of the best among bottom-feeder clubs in the division, showcasing Burnley’s somewhat astute recruitment process to find players that fit their style of play who can immediately enter the frame.

EVERTON

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EVERTON (8)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Demarai Gray6.846.936.786.946.87Premier League
Andros Townsend6.807.026.716.966.87Premier League
Vitalii Mykolenko6.876.956.686.856.84Ukrainian Premier League
Asmir Begovic6.616.396.746.96.66EFL Championship
Donny van de Beek6.686.516.476.696.59Premier League
Dele Alli6.336.556.266.556.42Premier League
Anwar El Ghazi6.056.486.056.576.29Premier League
José Salomón Rondón 5.996.276.196.556.25Russian Premier League
Team Average6.60

At the start of the season under Rafa Benitez, Everton enjoyed a magnificent couple of weeks, spearheaded by their two newest additions at that time – Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend. Both came in from other Premier League sides to little fanfare, but started on the right foot in propelling the Toffees into the top ten. Then it all came crashing down. Benitez’s side stuttered out of form and slipped down the table, all the way until Frank Lampard was trusted to bring solidity back to Goodison Park. Lampard added Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli to his ranks on loan from top six sides, and acquired the services of Vitalii Mykolenko from Dynamo Kyiv shortly after the departure of French fullback Lucas Digne. In the end, only Mykolenko added tangible quality on a regular basis, as the Toffees survived by the skin of their teeth.

LEEDS UNITED

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LEEDS (4)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Kristoffer Klaesson7.16.477.277.407.06Eliteserien
Leo Hjelde6.707.156.706.806.84Scottish Premiership
Daniel James6.726.666.446.646.61Premier League
Junior Firpo6.566.656.496.66.58La Liga
Team Average6.77

Kristoffer Klaesson and Leo Hjelde won’t qualify for the next part of this, but boasted positive performances in their limited minutes to showcase some level of promise for the future. But once again it’s a case of “the fewer the better” when it comes to incoming transfers. Leeds evidently need reinforcements going into the 2022-23 season, and already have made strides to change their fortunes around. But the signing of Daniel James played out reasonably well for the Whites, even if Junior Firpo will need more time to adapt.

NORWICH CITY

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NORWICH (10)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Dimitris Giannoulis6.716.786.616.746.71Super League Greece
Mathias Normann6.716.726.566.776.69Russian Premier League
Brandon Williams6.706.866.546.656.69Premier League
Pierre Lees-Melou6.676.816.486.766.68Ligue 1
Billy Gilmour6.626.756.396.826.65Premier League
Milot Rashica6.446.576.426.596.51German Bundesliga
Angus Gunn6.446.116.566.766.47EFL Championship
Josh Sargent6.416.476.326.656.46German Bundesliga
Ozan Kabak6.306.316.366.556.38German Bundesliga / Premier League
Christos Tzolis6.046.106.066.576.19Super League Greece
Team Average6.54

On the other end of the spectrum from Leeds, you have Norwich. The Canaries made ten signings across the 2021-22 campaign. The highest rated player in Dimitris Giannoulis accumulated a menial score of 6.71, and features as even more of an anomaly having come in from the Super League in Greece. Mathias Normann and Brandon Williams enjoyed some positive performances for Dean Smith’s side, but it didn’t matter where they signed players from in 2021-22…they were all fairly woeful. For that matter, the Canaries’ poor form is certainly not a great omen for Bundesliga clubs as part of the ‘Bundesliga Tax’ debate – as Milot Rashica and Josh Sargeant made little impact in their survivability.

SOUTHAMPTON

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SOUTHAMPTON (5)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Tino Livramento6.867.096.736.856.88Premier League
Armando Broja6.736.496.596.696.63Eredivisie
Romain Perraud6.706.706.416.596.60Ligue 1
Adam Armstrong6.416.546.386.716.51EFL Championship
Lyanco6.396.586.376.616.49Serie A
Team Average6.62

Southampton made a few smart signings prior to the 2021-22 season, most notably in permanently securing Tino Livramento, and notching Armando Broja on loan from Chelsea. The problem for the Saints was in securing players to drastically improve their starting eleven, rather than serve as rotation options or ones to watch for the future. They even doubled down on the same type of player in Broja and Armstrong, meaning neither fully broke into the starting eleven. They will be hoping to keep Armando Broja for another year, but the Albanian may be out of their price range if West Ham and Newcastle up the ante on their interest.

WATFORD

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WATFORD (13)TMSFOTMOBWHOSCOSOFAAVGPrevious League
Hassane Kamara6.837.146.866.836.92Ligue 1
Emmanuel Dennis6.906.856.896.86.86German Bundesliga / Belgian Pro
Moussa Sissoko6.696.966.686.766.77Premier League
Juraj Kucka6.766.936.636.766.77Serie A
Imran Louza6.776.876.546.836.75Ligue 1
Edo Kayembe6.656.766.486.756.66Belgian Pro League
Samir6.586.506.536.666.57Serie A
Peter Etebo6.396.826.316.666.55Turkish Super Lig
Danny Rose6.396.596.446.696.53Premier League
Nicolas Nkoulou6.356.586.476.706.53Serie A
Samuel Kalu6.106.376.256.656.34Ligue 1
Ozan Tufan6.006.246.066.386.17Turkish Super Lig
Ashley Fletcher6.006.036.056.456.13EFL Championship
Team Average6.58

The final piece to this puzzle ends with Watford, who had one of the most calamitous series of transfers in Premier League history. Although they added quality to their team in the form of Emmanuel Dennis and Hassane Kamara, most of the thirteen signings struggled to make an impact on their survival. It’s not just managers that the Hornets love to go through, but even players apparently, as the likes of Ozan Tufan and Ashley Fletcher didn’t even make it to the second half of the campaign. Beyond Kamara and Dennis, Imran Louza may be an interesting player for Premier League sides to keep on their radar. But it was a disastrous season for the Hornets all ends up, and they will be better off adding fewer new faces in the future.

team rankings

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RANKTEAMTOP PLAYERAVG.# OF PLAYERS
1Leeds UnitedDaniel James* (6.61)6.774
2BurnleyNathan Collins (6.99)6.725
3SouthamptonValentino Livramento (6.88)6.625
4EvertonDemarai Gray (6.87)6.608
5WatfordHassane Kamara (6.93)6.5813
6NorwichDimitris Giannoulis (6.71)6.5410

Leeds rank at the top of the list on our club ratings, albeit with two players that barely played. If you take the average of just Firpo and James, Leeds rank closer to the others. Burnley perhaps had the best luck in the transfer market, and in Wout Weghorst sadly signed one of the better performing Bundesliga players. Watford also surprisingly but unsurprisingly come out ahead of Norwich, with Kamara and Dennis helping to boost the Hornets ahead.

Once again, when you look at league position to quality of transfers, it’s a fairly close correlation from top to bottom. This doesn’t necessarily mean that bringing in high quality players guarantees success. Sometimes it’s also about bringing in fewer signings, if any at all, such as the approaches taken from Liverpool and City in Part 1. Speaking of that…

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. Watford and Norwich only made matters worse for themselves by failing on so many levels with their new signings, with the lesser known names and faces reaching higher heights than the big name players. Other than Watford ranking ahead of Norwich, our bottom-feeder clubs even rank one by one when it comes to making fewer signings. Leeds at four feature at the top (again with an asterisk), whilst Norwich land at the bottom, with none of their ten signings amounting to anything remarkable.

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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A recurring theme from our search so far, the Belgian Pro League appears to be an incredibly viable place to purchase game-changing Premier League level footballers. Although it’s a small sample size of Dennis (who spent half of last season in the Bundesliga), and Edo Kayembe, it still boasts reasonably well for the Belgian Pro League’s ability to provide standout stars in the making when scouted correctly. The Championship and Ligue 1 also provide solid options for bottom-feeder clubs to change their fortunes around, with the Premier League serving as the most popular choice.

RANKLEAGUETOP PLAYERAVG SCORE# ELIG. PLAYERS
1Belgian Pro LeagueEmmanuel Dennis (6.86)6.762
2EFL ChampionshipNathan Collins (6.99)6.704
3Ligue 1Hassane Kamara (6.92)6.686
4Premier LeagueValentino Livramento (6.88)6.6611
5Serie AJuraj Kucka (6.77)6.613
6German BundesligaEmmanuel Dennis (6.86)6.585
7Russian Premier LeagueMathias Normann (6.79)6.472
8Super League GreeceDimitris Giannoulis (6.71)6.452
9Turkish Super LigPeter Etebo (6.55)6.382
+Ukranian Premier LeagueVitalii Mykolenko (6.84)6.841
+EredivisieArmando Broja (6.63)6.631
+La LigaJunior Firpo (6.58)6.581

Serie A also fares well enough in our final dataset here, after topping both the previous charts. Premier League sides may however think twice before signing players from the Turkish Super Lig, Super League Greece or Russian Premier League in the future, as they have not only ranked low in this section but consistently across the board. Ending off with ‘Bundesliga Tax’, it once again appears to be a real thing. Dennis was the only impressive performer from the league among bottom-table sides, and even he spent half a season being scouted in Belgium before his move to FC Köln, and then the Hornets. Finally, the form of Vitalii Mykolenko may cause Premier League sides to send their scouts to Ukraine again next year (or Wyscout’s Ukrainian Premier League section), after his successful integration into Everton during trying times.

Up next, we’ll analyze all the players from all three parts, making one final conclusion as to where Premier League sides should be looking to sign players ahead of 2022-23.

CONCLUSION

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After examining all twenty Premier League sides, we’ve reached a conclusion. Bundesliga Tax exists in abundance, and at this point has to be considered a real phenomenon. For bottom-table sides, Bundesliga stars did little to aid chances of survival, with even Emmanuel Dennis unable to carry Watford over the line. 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 in all three sections.

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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. Clubs that signed more players had a significantly harder time integrating all of their new signings and achieving club harmony, whilst clubs that made fewer signings consistently achieved higher ratings in our dataset. Clubs should therefore focus on adding high-quality players to their greatest positions of need when searching for immediate improvements (such as Watford’s signing of Dennis and Kamara), rather than rotation options that might not be prepared to immediately set the league on fire.

Stay tuned for our final piece in this series, where we’ll study all the players signed across the campaign to draw our final conclusions. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out…

-> Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 1)
-> Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 2)


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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