When Leeds nearly signed Daniel James in January, many United fans would have been forgiven for not knowing who he is.
Leeds were targeting James, a 21-year-old with only 12 starts, on the basis of information from data from the analytics firm Analytics FC.
The firm crunches data for its client, and it has claimed that its own algorithm brought James to Leeds’ Victor Orta’s attention, according to Leeds Live.
The football analytics firm said how it found James as part of its announcement that confirmed Leeds as a formal partner of their scouting and recruitment process.
A statement by the firm said: “One of the TransferLab (scouting software) algorithm’s key strengths is its ability to identify young players earlier and more confidently than other systems on the market,”
“In January 2019, the algorithm tipped Daniel James of Swansea City as a future star.”
It added: “After spotting James’s output in TransferLab, Orta asked for a bespoke report about the player from Analytics FC’s expert data scouts.
“The report pitted him against comparable wingers in his age bracket both in terms of current and projected future performance, as well as analysing whether he suited Leeds’ unique style of play under [Marcelo] Bielsa.
“The information in the report from TransferLab gave Orta confidence James was a great prospect to sign, despite only having played half a season of senior football.”
The firm added that is also helps in areas find players who are undervalued across lesser scouted areas in Europe.
Analytics FC said: “It has helped identify undervalued talents in markets that other Championship clubs wouldn’t typically operate in, such as Mateusz Klich, who joined from Dutch club FC Twente, Pontus Jansson, who joined from Italian club Torino, as well as Samuel Saiz, who came from SD Huesca when they were in the Spanish second division.”
Director of football Victor Orta said this on the collaboration: “Football recruitment is changing constantly and whilst there is no substitute for the well trained eye of a scout, we also need to combine that skill with various scouting tools.
“A system like Analytics FC gives us incredibly important information and allows us to create comparisons between targets and other players in the marketplace.
“We are delighted to join forces with Jeremy [Steel, Analytics FC’s managing director] and his team and we look forward to continuing to find talent from the UK, Europe and beyond.”
It is interesting in the way that Leeds have announced a method of their scouting amid their link with Analytics FC.
While it is impressive that they managed to scout James using these algorithms, it seems a bizarre concept that Leeds would then try and publicly boast about it, considering that the competition for effective scouting is so fierce.
Considering this, while it is interesting how James was found by Leeds, all of these statements appear to be marketing rather than a really insightful look into how Leeds’ scouting system works.