Liverpool have in the last few years established themselves as one of the strongest teams on the planet with arguably the most successful and sustainable model for running a club. A cornerstone of this success has been the recruitment strategy and negotiating skills of Michael Edwards. The Reds’ signing of Sepp Van Den Berg, on of Edwards’ long term moves, has been praised by Moneyball architect Billy Beane.
Who is Billy Beane?
Many of us know the name Billy Beane thanks to the 2011 film Moneyball. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, tells the story of Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season.
Beane, faced with budgetary restrictions, assembled a team of undervalued talent by taking a data led approach to recruitment.
The focus on value for money signings based on hard data became known as the Moneyball approach. Beane went on to decline an offer to work for FSG’s team the Boston Red Sox.
A fascinating signing
Beane was recently interviewed by the Blood Red Podcast. In the interview the baseball executive praises Liverpool’s approach to recruitment, singling out one transfer in particular he said:
“Last year, Liverpool picked up a young man who was playing in Eredivisie as a 15 or 16-year-old, Sepp van den Berg.
“What is interesting is when you take a 15 or 16-year-old – in the States, he would be in his second year of high school – and if he is playing at the average Eredivisie level and he is 15 or 16, that to me is the real exploitation of data.
“We’ll see how it turns out, but there was a lot of evidence that it was an incredibly shrewd, cost-effective risk to take on a guy that you had data on at a very young age.”
What RTK has to say
There are few people around with more clout than Billy Beane when it comes to recruitment. The man revolutionised how players are valued in the sport of baseball, he knows his onions when it comes to value for money.
Sepp Van Den Berg was definitely a signing for the future but Billy Beane has touched on something fascinating with his comments: the fact that the signing was likely propelled by just how much data the club had on him.
There are youngsters all over Europe being chased by the game’s heavyweights but not all of these youngsters have competed in the top flight and certainly not on a regular basis, Van Den Berg on the other hand appeared frequently enough for the Reds to be able to collect a thorough dataset on him.
Fingers crossed in years to come he goes on to fulfil his potential, it may be a few years before we can give a verdict on just how shrewd a buy he was.