La Magica; The Monchi Files — 02. Value For Money

One of the things Monchi excelled at was buying low and selling high. During his tenure at the club, Sevilla’s scouting network branched far and wide and the club has gained plenty of success by tapping into underappreciated markets in South America and smaller European leagues. His success stories were also numerous.

Monchi ranks Dani Alves as one of his best ever signings, and it is not hard to see why. At the age of 19, Alves was plucked from the obscurity of Brazilian club Bahia, initially on loan and then on a permanent basis for under a million euros. Six years, 246 appearances, two UEFA Cups and a Copa del Rey later, he was transferred to Barcelona for 30 million euros, becoming the most expensive right-back of all time.

Another example of Sevilla recognising the potential of a player in time was Julio Baptista, who arrived at Sevilla as a solid, if unspectacular defensive midfielder from Brazilian football, but left just two years later as a prolific brute of a striker. Nicknamed “The Beast” due to his immense frame, Baptista struck 47 goals in his two seasons at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, earning a big-money move to Real Madrid in 2005.

Yet another starlet signed from a lower league club abroad, Geoffrey Kondogbia moved to Spanish football after just one full season in Ligue 2 with Lens, but quickly made a big impression on La Liga and European football. The Frenchman’s excellent displays in central midfield sparked interest from a host of top European clubs, but it was newly-promoted Monaco who took the plunge on him for 20 million euro’s, which is five times what Sevilla paid for him just one year previously.

A final example of just how far-reaching Sevilla’s scouting network spans is Carlos Bacca, who was signed from Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League for just over £5 million. The Colombian hit the ground running straight away, netting 21 goals in his first season and then 28 the next campaign to secure a dream move to Milan in 2015.

These are all prime examples of getting value for your money. Finding players with obvious talent who are somehow underrated by the market system. Bring these players in on sufficiently low deals, develop them, see them blossom and sell them for a major profit. The concept of value for money underlines all of these transfers and thus should underline this entire series.

Value for money

In order to navigate and exploit the transfer market, you need to know the products available to the market. This is where your scouting network comes in, constantly scouring various leagues and nations for talent that you can bring to your side. An ideal scenario would consist of talent that you can bring in for a good price with potential re-sale profit.

My own scouting network is geared towards spotting the best talent as it emerges, scouts with knowledge in a particular country will be my eyes in that country. I will scout the major leagues for knowledge of the best players and scouts in the youth competitions to pick to grab the young players early, for cheaper and potential resale values are massive.

Investing the time and effort into doing this correctly can help compensate for what is at the moment a terrible system of bringing youth in from academies in which you have little control of. Completing your own recruitment from around the world will bring a lot of benefits and start to build up your sides chance at success in the transfer market.

Ideally, you want value for money when scouting players. Value for Money (VfM) is an economic term used to assess whether or not an organisation has obtained the maximum benefit from the goods and services it acquires and/or provides, within the resources available to it. Roughly translated to football terms, have you obtained the best players available to you for the least money?

In terms of applying this concept to the way I play the game, I like to differentiate between two levels: the regions/nations available in the game and individual cases. Even though there are some serious overlaps taking place between the two, there are differences as well in terms of the scale and magnitude you’re working on. I’ll elaborate on that further down the line.

Applying the concept to FM; regions

The first aspect I want to delve into is the Value for Money factors when assessing the various scouting regions in Football Manager. When you are looking to send your scouts out (assuming you are not using attribute masking that is), you need to assess which areas are interesting for you. I am not taking the financial restrictions the board imposes on you into consideration here, this is a more theoretical consideration, out of all the available options, which regions are the most interesting ones to suit our needs.

When determining the value for money, we look at the following factors:

  • Ability of the players available within a region;
  • Potential ability of the players available within a region;
  • Transfer-sums for the players within a region;
  • Wages for the players within a region;
  • Availability of players within a region;
  • The commercial value of players within a region.

Ability of the existing players available within a region

When applying the idea to FM, there are a plethora of variables we need to take into account when determining whether or not an area offers value for money. For starters, there is the actual quality of the players involved. Are the players good enough to compete and are there enough quality players to make it worthwhile scouting a region? If the players are not good enough for your level or there are only a few players around who can compete, a certain region is not worth scouting.

Your transfer targets here are players able to break into the first team squad immediately or who are on the verge of being good enough to break into the first team squad. Recognising potential assets means you need to be able to assess your own squad’s strength as well. Though it is not a foolproof method, you could use the star-ratings your own coaches provide you with for your own squad.

The average ability depends on your own squad. If your coaches assess your players with an ability-ranking of around three stars, you are looking for players who can get at least two-and-a-half stars to be viable rotational options. As I said earlier, this is a bit of an iffy method, since these rankings can change rapidly when new players are introduced to the squad and the dynamics and setup of the squad changes. Take for instance Tommy St. Jago.

Throughout my rise towards the absolute top of Europe, St. Jago has been a valuable squad player for me, ranked with at least three to three-and-a-half stars. The recent signing of both Stefan de Vrij, Matthijs de Ligt and Brazilian newgen U20 international Osmar has seen the overall quality of the squad improve, which has also dropped his star ranking. This does not make St. Jago any less of a player but since the rankings are based on his abilities compared to his team-mates in similar positions it means he has taken a hit in terms of his star ranking.

Still, if I am going to sign an additional defender, I need to make sure he rates as at least equal to St. Jago and preferably slightly better, topping off at least three stars ability, or I would be just throwing money out of the window on a player I did not really need to sign. Thus, when assessing if an area is worthy of scouting, look at the initial reports coming in for such an area or for the reports you have received there over the past few years. If the majority of the players cannot reach the required standards, why bother scouting there at all, especially when money is scarce?

Potential ability of the newgens available within a region

We also need to look at the possibility of quality future talent in an area, be it newgens or existing players. If a region contains nations with high ratings for youth players, it’s a good idea to send your scouts there to unearth new diamonds in the rough before anyone else does. When you find them before the competition does, it increases your chances of actually signing them.

This basically means we need to check out the Youth Rating Football Manager gives specific nations. This Youth Rating influences how likely specific nations are to produce a number of quality regens; the average number of regens who can become world class players or higher reputation players in the future. A nation with better Youth Rating will over time produce regens with a higher standard than a nation with a lower level. But it is not a definite matter that the nation will constantly produce the best regens, as this is also tied to club reputations, their youth facilities and chance.

The number of quality regens coming through from one nation with superb youth rating will, therefore, increase the possibility to find better regens quicker than in a nation with low youth rating. What that means is that the chances of youth in Brazil becoming worldwide names are much higher than in South Africa for example.

Much like the current ability of players, your coach reports can give you somewhat of an indication of how good a player can become but again, much like the current ability of your players, these ratings in terms of potential ability can jump up or down depending on incoming and outgoing transfers. Some caution is advisable but the scout reports can still give a decent indication of what a player can turn into. For example.

Let’s take the South American region as an example. If I were looking to replace Tommy St. Jago in the near future, this area already offers a number of interesting options after a mere cursory glance. It is an area we have not really scouted heavily beside the usual prospects already in national youth sides or senior internationals who have not yet moved to Europe.

When I am assessing if an area is worthy of scouting, I look at these initial reports coming in for such an area or for the reports you have received there over the past few years. If the majority of the players cannot reach the required standards, why bother scouting there at all, especially when money is scarce? In this example, South America is worthy of some more scouting attention.

Transfer-sums for the players within a region

Whilst on the subject of signing players, value for money also means getting good players at low prices. Value is partially determined by the reputation of a nation and its leagues and partially by the club’s reputation. The process of signing players from smaller leagues generally means you can get them cheaper than players from higher-profile leagues. The same applies to the newgens, usually, the players from higher-profile leagues are more expensive than players from low profile leagues.

Reputation-wise, you are going to have to see how your league’s and home nation’s reputation holds up compares to the leagues you are scouting. If these reputations are lower than your own, an increase in value after the transfer is almost guaranteed. It means that you should be okay with paying more than the market value for these players. Another example will clarify what I mean.

At the start of the season, I signed Brazilian U20-international called Osmar. His market value at the time was around 3 million euros. He was playing for the Seattle Sounders in the MLS. In terms of reputation, the MLS is below the Eredivisie. In terms of reputation, the Netherlands rate higher than the US. In terms of reputation, Fortuna Sittard is a lot stronger than the Seattle Sounders at this point in my save-game. All in all, I knew that his value would skyrocket once the deal went through. I was also comfortable paying over double his actual value at the time because I was certain he would be worth it, regardless of playing.

Fast forward six months. Osmar has played about half of the games he could, rotating in central defence with Stefan de Vrij, Tommy St. Jago and Matthijs de Ligt. Meanwhile, he has made his debut for the Seleçao, which has also given him a considerable reputation-boost. Playing for a bigger club, in a bigger nation and seeing his personal reputation improve has done wonders for his reputation. Osmar is now worth nearly 20 million. That is a prime example of the influence of reputation on the value of your players.

Wages for the players within a region

Similarly, we have to take the reputation factors into account when trying to determine the wages players will command upon transferring to our club. If these youngsters are incredibly expensive in terms of wages, perhaps they form a risky and valuable investment, whereas lower wages would make a transfer less risky and more profitable.

Availability of players within a region

Another factor to take into account is the availability of players. This does not mean if a club is willing to sell a specific player, but if there are conditions to the actual transfer such as Work Permits or age limitations. For instance, South American rules dictate that players cannot move to Europe unless they are 18 years of age, which is a serious hindrance when scouting for youths. Similarly, many of these South Americans require Work Permits to move to the UK leagues.

You have to be aware of league rules and limitations when you are scouting. A specific rule that annoys me at times is a financial one that is in place in the Netherlands. Non-EU players, regardless of their actual age, have to earn a specific minimum wage which is a lot higher than that of EU-players. When you are scouting for players, rules like these can be a factor. Always check the league rules for information like this.

Commercial value of players within a region

The final factor we need to consider is the commercial value of a specific player. It’s not a deal-breaking factor in my eyes, but one that could and should be considered regardless. Some players are, metaphorically, worth their weight in gold (otherwise you’d just sign Anderson from Man Utd, the fat bastard would make you filthy rich) because of commercial reasons. Japanese players tend to bring in extra merchandising revenue, the same applies to a big name signing.

Applying the concept to FM; individuals

The second aspect I want to delve into is the Value for Money factors when assessing an individual case in Football Manager. The factors are largely the same as before, with one exception. When determining the value for money in individual cases, we look at the following factors:

  • Ability of the players available within a region;
  • Potential ability of the players available within a region;
  • Transfer-sums for the players within a region;
  • Wages for the players within a region;
  • Availability of players within a region;
  • The commercial value of players within a region.

 

Resale value of the player

Since the first factors are more or less the same as with the leagues, there is no need to look into them further and repeat what I said earlier. The main new factor here is the resale factor; the Monchi factor if you will. When I sign this player, will I be able to sell him on to another club? That means that I need a player who is no older than at most his mid-twenties and preferably available for free or otherwise hampered by his reputation somehow. I intend to zoom in on this subject even further in the next article of this series.

Setting your assignments

When I contemplate my value for money approach, I usually try to write my thoughts down somehow. This helps me to decide where I want to send my scouts to see them work their magic. I usually use a schedule like the one below. I mostly use a star-rating system to stick with the Football Manager theme, though you could use a rating system between 1-20 or whatever takes your fancy instead. The fact of the matter remains that you rate scouting regions (or nations) according to the value for money factors.

The picture above is just an example of how I try to think when I set my scouting assignments. The document is regularly updated when the reputation of the team changes or when I have the money to buy a more expensive scouting package. If you want to, you can download the template file right here.

DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE

 

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