To Loan or not to Loan , that is,,,,
As I write this, the transfer window is wide open and the club has already completed some business. Vakoun Bayo has been signed on a four year deal, and two loans have arrived in the form of Weah and Burke. In addition, a couple of “frees” have been signed …..the left back, Guttman and the right back/wing back Manny Perez, subject to work permits. Efforts are ongoing to bring in a CB and a RB, either as acquisitions or loans depending on what you read and where you read it.
This prompted me to look at previous transfer windows to try to get a handle on the strategies (if any) at play by the recruitment function of the club. Recently, this area has been heavily criticized in terms of its performance, or, really, lack of performance.
Recruitment can be classified into three types: purchases, loans and frees or Bosmans. Let’s leave out the other option of promoting youth players because that is an area worth examining in its own right. Tierney, Forrest, Johnson and Ralston are examples of the latter but player development merits a separate article.
First, let me outline the terms of reference of this article…with the emphasis on the “tickle” part of that word. I considered the transfer activity of our last six managers:
These custodians covered the period from 2000 right up to the present.
Let’s start by asking the question: Which of the above managers relied the most upon loans? Stop reading now and look back at the list of managers(no reading ahead!) and write down your answer on the back of a pre-Brexit ten pound note and forward it to the “Rebus to Malaga” fund, care of the Dreaming in Technicolour Charity, Keynsham, Bristol. I shall try (and fail) to keep the statistical talk to a minimum. To digress, do you know that the definition of a statistician is? It is one who sleeps with his/her head in the oven and feet in the fridge and, on average, is comfortable? No? Ahh, well, how about he uses Statistics like a drunken man uses a lamp-post for support, rather than illumination? Heard that? No? I give up.
I expressed the number of loans as a percentage of the total number of players signed throughout each manager’s reign. The answer to the question is that RD and BR have used the highest percent of loans (30% and 32%) during their terms. So far, 32% of BR’s signings have been loans, excluding the current transfer window. If we rewind back to MON and GS(2000-5 and 2005-10)), there were relatively few loans (11%, 9%). So much for the personalities, but probably more interesting is that over the time period, MON to BR, there has been an increasing reliance on loaned players. The trend is very clear.
What does this mean? Is it a deliberate strategy or a fluke? Let’s assemble the facts. Through six managerial reigns and over the period of 2000 to the present day, our reliance on loaned players has jumped from around 10% to over 30%. Fluke or policy? You judge.
Are loans a bad thing? Look at the following. I think that most would agree that a loan was successful if the player was retained beyond the initial loan. So, the percentage of loanees retained after the loan concludes is a measure, not the only one, of success. The GS period displayed the most successful period for loans with 50% of loanees being retained beyond the initial loan. Perhaps, GS’s success with loans encouraged further use of this strategy. MON and TM had the least successful loan strategies with none of their loanees being retained. Of course, caution is needed when looking at TM’s reign….as he was only there for one very long season.
However, it would be unfair to judge loans purely on the basis of whither the player is retained. Loans can fix interim problems such as we have with the CB position at the moment. Some managers may use loans solely for this purpose. Benkovic is an example of this. We have very little chance of retaining him, but he is a very good player in his position so far. Similarly, our CEO may not have trusted the manager with anything other than short term loans until he proves that he is worthy of employment. TM and RD are cases in point…during each of their terms high levels of loans were used….27% and 30%. In the curious case of RD only 14% of his loans were retained and none of TM’s.
As mentioned earlier, loans are not the only method of recruiting. There is also the Bosman or “free” market. How did Celtic perform in the” free” market? Before looking at that, we should issue a government health warning. “Free” players are not free! There will be signing on payments plus payments to their agents to secure the player’s signature. However, depending upon the quality, stage of career of the recruit, it is unlikely that the signing on payment will reach the market value of the player that would be necessary to pay to another club. So, in general, we would expect “frees” to be cheaper than purchases.
MON (32%) and NL (33%) used the highest percents of “frees”, whereas RD and BR used the lowest. So, in summary, Celtic’s recruitment strategy shifted from a heavy reliance on “frees” to a reliance on loans from the year 2000 onwards. To my simple mind there are two types of “free”. The first is the “Joe Ledley” scenario where a player is out of contract and has refused to re-sign for his club. Such players have a better chance of turning out to be good acquisitions. The second type is often an older player that has been released by his club. These players carry higher risks. Their best years are behind them, but do they have one more good period in them? Yaya Toure is a current example as is Defoe over on the other side. Our record is full of players who did not have anything to offer. A few examples are: Freddie Ljundberg, Carlton Cole, Steven Mouyokolo, Rabiu Ibrahim, Olivier Kapo, Mo Camara, Michael Herbet. There are many more.
Admittedly, there is a lot of subjectivity in assessing the success/failure of a loan/free recruit. But there is clarity on players such as: Bobo Balde, Ramon Vega, even poor old Javier Broto. These players and others performed well for the club. Others such as Kenny Miller and Diomansy Kamara are more difficult to judge. Kamara played well but broke his leg during his loan. Miller blew hot and cold and went on a long run of being unable to score. I classified each loan or free into one of three categories: Fail, Question Mark, and Success. How did the managers do? Let’s leave TM out of it because he was not in position long enough.
Largely successful on loans
50-50 on frees
50-50 on loans
Mainly unsuccessful on frees
Unsuccessful with loans
50-50 on frees.
Mainly unsuccessful with loans
Mainly unsuccessful with frees
Success with loans
Unsuccessful with frees.
The above shows how difficult it is to achieve success in the market through the use of loans or frees. On the loan front, for every Craig Bellamy there are two or more Henri Camaras or Du Weis! Similarly, for every Joe Ledley there are many Freddie Ljundbergs, Andre Blackmans and Olivier Kapos. As in most walks of life, the phrase, “you get what you pay for…” applies. Loans and Frees are lower cost recruitment vehicles than purchases but success rates are low.
The percentage of outright purchases peaked during the GS reign and has shown a trend of decline since his tenure. As to why that is happening, your guess is as good as my own. Let me finish by observing that Vakoun Bayo, our latest capture is reported to have cost 2 million. What would be the equivalent of 2 million pounds back at the start of MON’s period? Roughly, it would be around 1.2 million. Back in 2000-1 we were buying David Fernandex and Ulrik Lauren for 1 million and 1.5 million respectively. A striker, Chris Sutton in those days cost us 6 million pounds…considerably more than the outlay on Bayo at 1.2 million. Hopefully, that comment does not translate directly on to the park.