The economics of transfer deals – Sevilla FC

A colleague forwarded me link to the BBC sport website concerning the work of Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo aka Monchi. Monchi spent 11 years as player at Sevilla (goalkeeper) but is recognised more for his role at Sevilla’s sporting director. When appointed Sevilla were in the Spanish second division and Monchi studied clubs like FC Porto and Lyon who won titles but were able to sell top players and replace them with similar quality players for less money. His first signing was Dani Alves who six years later went to Barcelona for £30m a profit of £29.7m – other signings by Monchi are listed in the table below which equates to and overall £189.75m profit.

Sevilla was relegated from the top flight at the end of the 1996–97 season but returned to La Liga in 1999 with a policy of sell and grow. Since then they have won the following:

  • Copa del Rey in 2007 and 2010;
  • Uefa Cup in 2006 and 2007;
  • Europa League in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2020.

Monchi pulled off another profitable transfer this season which saw Ivan Rakitic return to Sevilla for a second spell. Originally the Croatian was signed for £2.1m from Schalke in 2011 and then sold to Barcelona for £15.3m in 2014. In September this year Sevilla resigned him for £1.36m and still playing very good football at 32 years of age.

Do the new signings perform?

The website ‘Total Football Analysis’ looked at how well Monchi’s signings performed – this included five years at Sevilla (2012/13 to 2016/17) and two years at AS Roma (2017/18 to 2018/19) – he returned to Sevilla in 2000. His time at AS Roma was not as successful as at Sevilla.

How ‘Total Football Analysis’ judged the success of his signings was by using the metric: the percentage minutes played versus the price that was paid in the transfer market – see graph below. So logically the more expensive the signings the greater the minutes played. The players in red are AS Roma and those in blue are Sevilla FC.

Upper-left quadrant – poor signings as they are players with an above-average price (more than 7.63 million euros) who played below average minutes (39.24%).

Even if we are taking five seasons at Sevilla and only two at Roma, most of the players in the upper-left quadrant are Roma players. Only Ciro Immobile, Joaquín Correa and Paulo Henrique Ganso could be considered very bad signings for Sevilla in this period, while Roma in only two seasons had Patrik Schick, Javier Pastore, Grégoire Defrel, Rick Karsdorp, Cengiz Ünder, Davide Santon and Juan Jesus in the same list. 

Lower right quadrant – excellent signings. Those are players with a below-average price who played a higher than average percentage of minutes. This time, plenty of Sevilla players make the list, but only three Roma players: Aleksandar Kolarov, Federico Fazio and Nicolò Zaniolo.
Lower left quadrant – cheap but didn’t play much, which could mean they were supposed to play that role or were bad signings
Upper right quadrant – expensive signings who played a lot of minutes as there were high expectations.

The correlation between price and percentage of played minutes is represented with the green line. Curiously, the correlation is very low for Monchi’s signings, showing the price is a very bad predictor of players performances in his case. Part of this is because of his high spending at Roma on players who couldn’t make an impact. This reinforces what we suggested before: Monchi proved to be much better at signing lesser-known players for cheap fees than at making high-profile signings. 

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