The football data revolution and Michu effect: Is 'Spotting' a player about to die?

Football Manager

The end of scouts ‘spotting players’ could be coming quickly over the horizon with more and more sides relying on facts, data and numbers to discover potential signings.

The Guardian has reported that more clubs than ever before are using spreadsheets and physical data to unearth potential signings which could mean an end to ‘spotting’ players.

Before the technological advancements that we all know and love developed, players were scouted all over the country simply by being watched.

However, the importance of modern top flight football and the amount of cash involved means that potential investments are more important than they ever have been with teenagers being sold for millions.

The overlying worry in this modern trend is that tens of dozens of professionals around football clubs across the world could be out of a job if football reaches a point where players are traded purely on data.

It would be fascinating and slightly odd if the game reached that point as many retired former scouts still claim you cannot make a decision on a player until you have seen him up close.

The obvious benefit that a change in scouting methods brings is that it widens the net of potential captures, previously restricted to players a club could physically scout.

There are bound to be Premier League and Football League players on the radar of various sides with impressive sets of statistics.

The main point is that other players in various global leagues with the exact same stats could also be available at a fraction of the cost and at a fraction of the personal terms.

The importance of the financial side of scouting is only going to become more significant as governing bodies all over the world impose harsh financial rules and penalties onto clubs.

This will enable more signings like the transfer of Michu to Swansea City last summer; sold by Rayo Vallecano for £2 million and now valued at around £30 million because Swansea saw the potential in his figures.

The other aspect of this which suggests the scouting profession could be at the beginning of the end is the variety of statistics that are now available.

Even the remotest aspect of a player’s health, fitness or play can be monitored throughout a game or a season, something which obviously can’t be done with the human eye.

It’s a mixture of excitement, tinged with the sadness of possibly losing a valued and loved aspect of the game.

Is this the end of traditional scouting? Let us know your thoughts.

image: © Matthew Wilkinson

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