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  • Daniel Kamenetzky


Updated: May 29, 2020


What a soccer idol brings to his/her club is more than sports performance. Many offer leadership, generate an increase in fan engagement, an increase in the sale of merchandising products, media advertising, etc. Clubs pay for the sum of those services. However, players also generate considerable expenses that could be avoided and/or reduced to allow for significant savings for the institutions. The clubs' initial economic concern, and where the greatest effort of sports economists and data analysts is put, is in finding “how to estimate the real value of a soccer player” (what variables to include in the Market Value equation of a soccer player?) and how to find low-cost players in the market with the characteristics required by coaches. While it is important in any company to obtain “goods” at a low cost, it is also critical to maintain and improve them so that they perform with maximum efficiency for as long as possible. Here I present a description of the expense generated by the coordinative behaviors (movement techniques) and personality (predominantly aggression on the field) of soccer players. These expenses are possible to be avoided and/or reduced if innovative training and player control models are implemented. For this analysis, I use the Market Values offered by Transfermarket, and I assume (for lack of better data) that this value of each player is the annual investment that the club makes for him.

Graph 1. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value

Graph 2. La Liga - Players with the highest Market Value: Positions

Only in 2019, 15% of the total sum of the Market Value of the 50 most valuable players in La Liga (Transfermarket) were “invested” in days of “no sports performance” for the clubs. Thus, out of a sum of 2378 million Euros of market value of these players, 364 million were "spent" while the players were inactive due to injuries, suspended for disciplinary reasons, or complying with international commitments (activities related to World Cup or Olympic Games).

Graph 3. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Expenditure for "Absence" and Last Market Value (in MIllions of Euros)

From another perspective, of a total of 13 thousand days of commitment with their clubs of all the players studied, 9,850 days were allocated to rehabilitation for injuries and 3,158 days to disqualification due to sanctions and/or commitments outside their clubs.

Graph 4. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Years considered (#) and inactive days during those years (%)

Graph 5. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Total days considered (#) and inactive days during those years (#)

Graph 6. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Total days considered (#) and inactive days due to injuries during those years (#)

Graph 7. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Total days considered (#) and inactive days due to suspensions and/or international commitments during those years (#)

Graph 8. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Expenditure due to absences (in Millions of Euros, from 2019's Market Value) and Inactive days in 2019 (%)

To illustrate in more detail the drama of the expense that clubs incur for injuries and suspensions/commitments outside the club, let's look at some numbers of particular cases: Lionel Messi: in the last 14 years he has been 818 days without activity with his club (which is the equivalent to 2.24 years total). Of which 551 days (1.5 years total) were due to injuries and 267 days (0.73 years) due to suspensions/commitments outside the club. If we play with the Market values ​​and accept an average value of 112 million Euros (last value indicated by Transfermarket), in the period of the last 14 years of activity, we have that his club invested approximately 250 million Euros for a period that It did not translate into performance or sports compensation for the club (to this must be added the losses by and for sponsors, insurance, and expenses for reparative medicine and rehabilitation) If we consider only the year 2019, Leo Messi was without activity in the club 67% of the days, which would represent a non-productive expense for the club of 75 million Euros. Another interesting example is that of Ousmane Dembele who in the last 4 years has been 39% of the days without productive activity for the club: 514 days for injuries (1.41 years) and 63 days for suspensions and/or commitments outside the club (0.17 years). A total of 88.52 million Euros in non-productive spending for the club. Considering only 2019, Dembele has been absent 49% of the days, representing 27.46 million Euros.

Can this infertile expense be reduced? First, we have to understand the causes of the expense that I have called “non-productive for the club”:

1) Sports injuries: the main causes of sports injuries are caused by inefficient movement techniques and by the inadequate organization of training loads that lead to mechanical overloads and damage to biological structures. These so-called overuse injuries are possible to be reduced with an adequate medical history analysis of the player, controls of the technique before buying him/her as well as the control and analysis of movement techniques and workloads during training processes. If we look at the graph below we will see that there is a significant correlation between the years of competition and the days absent due to injuries. Clearly, player’s care institutional policies must be implemented since as the data indicates, most probably, the young player of today will be the injured player of tomorrow.

Graph 9. La Liga - 50 players with the highest Market Value: Absent days due to injuries and Total years considered for this study.

2) Suspensions for sanctions: the main causes of sanctions are the aggressive behavior against other players and the referee. It demands a clear institutional educative and behavioral policy. 3) International commitments: required by different Federations to allow the appearance of their selected players in international events (qualifier games, World Cup, Olympic Games). What is needed in this case are mutual agreements between each club and the referred Federation.

Clearly, a significant portion of the club’s expenditure is related to the player’s “non-productive” time. There is a need for innovative training and injury prevention strategies. Also will help to implement new educational and institutional policies. Finally, it is a must a modern and methodical pre-purchase player integral analysis that complements the performance evaluation during competition. All these strategies integrated will help prevent or at least reduce the here called “non-productive expenses” generated by soccer players in their clubs.



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