This week the transfer market has opened and, although the covers of the major newspapers have barely echoed a movement such as Rafinha’s to Real Sociedad, there have been very juicy transfers that escape the radar of the general public and the football circus. They are signings backed by artificial intelligence tools used by analysts and club databases.
Tools that have long been pointing to a young Mexican American named Ricardo Pepi like an emerging soccer player who will rub shoulders with the stars of the next decade. At 18, he has become the second most expensive transfer in the US MLS, from which he has left for the Bundesliga. It has been sold by FC Dallas to Augsburg for 16.3 million euros, the most expensive amount that this German club has paid in its history. This gives an idea of the importance of movement.
Pepi is a player who has been monitored for a long time by teams like Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern, Dortmund or Arsenal. However, Augsburg have made a bold bet on this young midfielder who at 18 has 7 caps for the United States, in which he has scored three goals. The kid arrives in Germany with the player’s band with a differential hit, a refined technique and an enormous vision of the game. A footballer who also has no problem working in the midfield and who develops with an enormous personality despite his youth. Last season he scored 13 goals in the 31 games he played for Dallas, many of them before he reached the age of majority. But the boy already accumulates more than 50 matches in the MLS despite his young age, which confirms his reliability.
Half of his shots end in a goal
The data reveals that Pepi shoots on goal almost three times per game (2.9), half of them go on goal (1.4), and more importantly, almost half of his shots on goal end in goal. (0.6). Which makes him a hierarchy attacker when he looks into the rival area. In addition, many of these kicks are produced in free kicks, an area that the American dominates with solvency. Augsburg have made a quick move by signing him for five and a half seasons, which has been understood in the market as an investment that will leave a lot of money in the club’s coffers in a future sale to a big team.
Artificial intelligence has become an indispensable tool when it comes to detecting talents in the market, players who can provide differential value or footballers with proven versatility that makes them perform in different roles on the field. Today, clubs are looking for specific profiles to complete their squads. And they do so by relying on companies and databases that inform them of the players that statistically best adapt to what they are looking for.. These programs use descriptive data from the past, what is known as Big Data and, based on them, try to contextualize the performance that the player can offer in the environment in which they are going to be placed, providing all possible information to sports directors and technical secretaries to make decisions with the maximum scientific rigor and reducing uncertainty to a minimum.
For this, there are consultancies such as BeSoccer, Olocip or Driblab that offer this type of advice in Spain, while in England there are StatsBomb and StatsPerform. There are even clubs that manage their own software and tools to monitor and analyze the market such as Liverpool, Barcelona or Seville.
Other smart moves
Pepi is perhaps the big move in this ‘smart’ market, but he’s not the only one. Nanitamo Jonathan Ikoné, a French midfielder who played for Lille, where he was crowned champion in France last season, has signed for Fiorentina. 14 million euros have paid the ‘viola’ for this 23-year-old left-handed playmaker who has already played four games with the French national team. Of Congolese origin, Ikoné arrived at Lille from Montpellier and has already accumulated more than 150 games in Ligue 1.
Another transfer that has attracted the attention of experts is that of the young Polish midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, barely 18 years old. A player who was in the orbit of Liverpool and Juventus, who have been overtaken by Brighton, an English club that is working relying on AI and Machine Learning to attract young talents to help the team in the Premier. Kozlowski, who has signed until 2026, arrives from Pogon Szczecin and He will be loaned by the ‘seagulls’ this season to the Belgian Union Saint Gilloise.
Sign the star maker
However, at a statistical and innovation level, the most striking strategic move in recent days has not been the transfer of a player. It has been the signing of Marijn Beuker by Queen’s Park Football Club, the oldest club in Scotland, which plays in the Second Scottish. This perfect stranger to the public was, until a few days ago, the Development Director of AZ Alkmaar, where he had been making young talents for 15 years with his innovative methods and his commitment to the integration of science in football. It is the great culprit that the Dutch club reached the Champions League challenging the big fish in the pond like Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord.
Leeann Dempster, the executive director of her new club, has been the ‘culprit’ of the signing of Beuker, who will now try to identify talents to take her team to the first Scottish. “We have the ambition to become a top club in developing young footballers and at Marijn we have someone who thinks deeply about the best way to do this. He constantly innovates and is highly regarded within European football. Everyone in the club hopes to work and learn from one of the most influential developers of young talents in Europe, “Dempster warned after closing one of the most interesting strategic signings away from the noise of the covers of the tabloids and football gatherings.