Where should Premier League clubs sign players?

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Ahead of the start of the 2022-23 season, we endeavoured to answer the question – where should Premier League clubs sign players? In the process of doing our Premier League Transfer Tax study, we’ve identified a series of trends that existed within Premier League clubs last season, that can help to inform the business of teams moving forward – including questions of where to sign players. Here is our final piece to this four-part puzzle.

CRITERIA & METHODOLOGY

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We scrutinized over all signings made prior to the 2021-22 Premier League season, and every signing made over the course of the campaign. We then assigned each player an ‘Average Score’ based on their ratings in three statistical rating sites – WhoScored, FotMob, and SofaScore, in addition to our own Player Evaluation Model on TMS.

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Following our data collection, we published three articles detailing the ‘Transfer Tax’ for various leagues around the world, simultaneously assessing the quality of each club’s transfer business across the campaign. We separated the series into three parts to bring greater context toward the types of signings that the echelon of clubs should be making, as opposed to mid-table sides, and those threatened with relegation.

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Players to make less than three appearances in the league were excluded from our data due to the small sample size of their match minutes. Leagues with less than three players were also excluded from our data in this final analysis, due to the small sample size of their assets. This included the Austrian Bundesliga (2), Danish Superliga (2), Turkish Super Lig (2), Eredivisie (1), and the Ukrainian Premier League (1).

We then used the ‘Average Scores’ to compare the various trends within our data, which will be presented in the following sections. First, let’s examine where clubs should sign players, based on the events of the 2021-22 campaign.

LEAGUE RANKINGS

RANKLEAGUETOP PLAYERTOP PLAYER 2TOP PLAYER 3AVG SCORE# PLAYERS
1Serie AChristian Eriksen Dejan Kulusevski Rodrigo Bentancur6.9911
2Primeira LigaLuis DiazTotiChiquinho6.984
3La LigaKieran Trippier Marc Cucurella Martin Odegaard*6.8611
4Belgian Pro LeagueMoises CaicedoEmmanuel Dennis A. Sambi Lokonga 6.864
5Scottish Premier.Shane DuffyKristoffer Ajer Odsonne Edouard 6.863
6EFL ChampionshipMarc Guehi Nathaniel CollinsEmiliano Buendia 6.798
7Premier LeagueJack GrealishConor Gallagher Martin Odegaard*6.7729
8Ligue 1Bruno Guimaraes Malang Sarr*Hassane Kamara6.7510
9German BundesligaIbrahima Konaté Emmanuel Dennis*Jadon Sancho6.6610
10Super League GreeceJose SaDimitris Giannoulis Christos Tzolis6.643
11Russian Premier LeagueMathias NormannNikola VlasicJ. Salomon Rondon6.433

After analyzing all 104 signings across the 2021-22 campaign, we have found the Serie A, Primeira Liga and La Liga to be particularly advantageous leagues to sign players from. The Premier League itself was the other league to consistently hit the highest of highs, but with many rotation options swapping from one PL side to another, the league also hit the lowest of lows.

Importantly, our study highlights the very real nature of ‘Bundesliga Tax’ – which essentially states that players from the Bundesliga have a harder time fitting into the Premier League, and therefore cost more than they are worth. The top rated Bundesliga player (7.02), ranked only above the top rated players from the EFL Championship, Scottish Premiership, and the Russian Premier League, and not a single player to come over from Germany’s top flight set the league on fire with any degree of decisiveness.

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Meanwhile, the Scottish Premiership and Belgian Pro League may be limited in sample size, but nevertheless showcase some degree of capability for their pros to make the transition. Our analysis therefore highlights the potential for clubs to continue scouting in not only Portugal and the Championship, but to send more of their resources to Belgium and Scotland in finding cut-price options that they can turn into world beaters.

When looking for immediate quality to not only improve a team on a minor scale but on a grand one, Serie A, La Liga, and the Premier League itself may be the best options for acquiring new assets.

BUT WHICH CLUBS?

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When signing players to immediately and positively transform a Premier League level club, we have found that it is generally best to sign players from Champions League or Europa League level teams, or the Premier League itself.

RANKPLAYERPREVIOUS CLUBMOVED TOAVG
1Christian EriksenInter MilanBrentford7.54
2Luis DiazFC PortoLiverpool7.47
3Kieran TrippierAtletico MadridNewcastle7.45
4Dejan KulusevskiJuventusTottenham7.37
5Rodrigo BentancurJuventusTottenham7.32
6Cristiano RonaldoJuventusManchester United7.28
7Jack GrealishAston VillaManchester City7.28
8Bruno GuimaraesLyonNewcastle7.23
9Marc CucurellaGetafeBrighton7.19
10Conor GallagherWest Brom*Crystal Palace7.17
11Moises CaicedoBeerschot Brighton7.16
12Martin OdegaardReal MadridArsenal7.12
13Cristian RomeroAtalantaTottenham7.09
14Dan BurnBrightonNewcastle7.08
15Philippe CoutinhoFC BarcelonaAston Villa7.04
16Jose SaOlympiacosWolves7.03
17Ibrahima KonateRB LeipzigLiverpool7.02
18TotiEstoril*Wolves7.02
19Matt TargettAston VillaNewcastle7.00

Of the 104 new signings, 19 accumulated an average score above 7.00. Four of the top six of those players came from Serie A, most notably Juventus and Inter Milan. Moises Caicedo and Toti serve as exceptions to the norm having come from Beerschot and Estoril, but both accumulated limited minutes in the 2021-22 Premier League season, and therefore may have skewed stats. Our data therefore suggests that the Champions League and Europa League markets are generally the best places to find transformative faces, if not mid-table Premier League sides like Aston Villa and Brighton.

CONCLUSION

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While evidently limited in assessing players based on single-season statistical scores, we hope that our study provides useful insights into how Premier League clubs should go about their transfer business moving forward. As stated in the previous sections, it is generally best practice to sign players between the ages of 20-24, and to narrow targets down to a few select individuals. If clubs can identify the three to five names that will drastically improve their starting eleven rather than just serving as rotation options, those individuals will be more likely to achieve success in their first season at the club. Consequently, the team in question may also be more likely to see a rise in performance, such as the cases of Brighton and Liverpool, who only made minor adjustments prior to the campaign.

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In terms of leagues with guaranteed quality, Italy’s Serie A may be a particularly fruitful market to find top tier talent for the Premier League, due in part to the natural ease between the stylistic quirks of both leagues. Meanwhile, Bundesliga Tax is in fact a real phenomenon, and Premier League clubs should be careful about which stars they sign from Germany’s top flight.


So there it is! Our complete analysis of what we call ‘Premier League Transfer Tax‘, and where clubs should sign players from. Be sure to check out more of our Transfer Market Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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