Football

John Burn-Murdoch

Spain lead the Financial Times' predictions for Euro 2016, just ahead of Germany and then hosts FranceThe European Football Championships are upon us, and with them an eclectic mix of prediction models from media organisations, financial institutions and independent statisticians. To assuage our FOMO (fear of missing out, for the non-Millennials), the FT has joined in with one of our own.

Spain are favourites to lift the trophy, narrowly ahead of Germany and hosts France, based on our method which uses Champions League appearances and players’ market values to determine each team’s strength. This trio of teams comes in well ahead of the other 21 countries taking part.

Read on for details of the model and how it compares to the betting markets. Read more


Leicester were bottom of the Premier League on April 10 2015, but a year later had climbed to the top, winning 91 points along the way. No team beginning at the foot of the top flight has ever won that many points* over the subsequent year since English league football began Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

PSG are so far ahead of their domestic rivals that manager Laurent Blanc has been able to field weakened sides ahead of big Champions League matches at a rate unmatched by any other quarter-finalist, ensuring that his strongest side has been as well-rested as possible. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

England’s Premier League is enjoying one of its most competitive seasons for years, but at the same time the league is without a club in Europe’s top 10 for the first time in 20 years.

The interplay between competitive balance and outright quality of football is a complex one, and depending on who you talk to, different levels of importance are placed on each when it comes to talk of which league is the bestRead more

John Burn-Murdoch

The Premier League could lose its fourth Champions League berth within two years, and things will only get more difficult the year after that.

England’s top flight will be given four places in Europe’s elite club tournament next season whatever happens, but the different leagues’ rankings in Uefa’s member association coefficient rankings as they stand at the end of the current season will determine the number of berths each receives in the 2017-18 tournament. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The Chinese Super League has cropped up in football conversations for several years now, but until recently it was in the context of it being one of the sport’s so called ‘retirement homes’: lesser leagues, where prominent Europe-based players only go for a final bulging pay packet and a relatively easy ride. This winter, that all changed, as several genuine global stars — many still in their prime — arrived on big money deals from major European clubs Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The January transfer window is upon us, and with several major clubs across the continent enduring tumultuous seasons, there are likely to be some fairly high profile comings and goings.

Every season billions of pounds change hands in the two periods where deals can take place across the globe, but despite the amount of the sports media’s attention devoted to the transfer market, evidence suggests there remains a surprising amount of uncertainty over what the fees involved actually are. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The Red Devils have hardly undergone a Chelsea-esque implosion — they sit in 5th place at the time of writing — but the Old Trafford faithful have grown increasingly restless, an undercurrent of discontent growing into a crescendo of criticism as perceived lacklustre performances have been followed by the poor results many felt they deserved.

According to an FT analysis, those perceptions are backed up by the statistics. After seven years of near-unbroken dominance in terms of their results, Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from the post of manager was followed by a dramatic decline.

By the end of David Moyes’ solitary term in charge, Man United’s results — after adjusting for opposition quality — didn’t even put them among the fourth strongest sides in the league. The arrival of Louis van Gaal brought about a recovery: by the end of his first campaign the club was — only just — back among the four strongest sides in the league in terms of results. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Last Thursday Chelsea’s owners made the decision many felt has been coming since August, and dismissed their talismanic manager José Mourinho.

Thus comes to an end his second spell at the reins of the club. The first ended in relative stagnation, but the second was truly a meteoric rise and fall.

With the aid of a statistical examination of the last 15 seasons, we can see the best and worst of Mourinho, and get a clue as to some of what went wrong this time around. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Last week Garry Monk became the seventh Premier League manager to be dismissed by his club in 2015, and the 11th top flight departure overall in the same period when resignations and contract expiries are included.

Monk had been in the job for just under two years, and while you could be forgiven for thinking this is precious little time, it actually comes in at almost twice the median across all Premier League managers in 2015. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Jamie Vardy’s record-setting Premier League goalscoring streak for Leicester City has been hailed as one of the most remarkable individual achievements of modern English football, but how does it compare to similar feats elsewhere?

Many have pointed out that Vardy’s run of scoring in 11 successive top flight English matches remains behind that of Jimmy Dunne, who made it to 12 for Sheffield United in 1931/32.

But given how much the game has changed over the intervening 60-plus years in terms of tactics, fitness and other factors, perhaps a better way of contextualising his record is to compare it to those of his contemporaries. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

A dozen games into the new Premier League season, Chelsea’s title defence has been anaemic, and few — if any — saw it coming. But with the aid of hindsight, shots data and the Elo ratings system, we can obtain a clue as to exactly when their troubles began: January 1 2015. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Since he shot to teenage stardom, Wayne Rooney has formed the mainstay of every team he has been part of, both at club and international level, and has stayed relatively injury free.

He is one of a select few world-class strikers to have played more than 50,000 minutes by their 30th birthday, but is he worn out as a result, and what might he learn from former Real Madrid star Raúl, whose career trajectory is almost a perfect match for his own? Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Belgium's rankings according to Fifa and eloratings.netWins earlier in October against Israel and Andorra will see the team leapfrog Argentina and Germany when Fifa’s rankings are updated next month, but how highly do alternative systems rate the Red Devils? Read more

FT Baseline

How do standard of play and level of competition vary across Europe’s top leagues, and can this tell us which provides the best football?
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FT Baseline

Last week we looked at the top goalscorers in modern European football, focusing on the importance of remaining injury free for those who go on to become true greats.

This time around we’re taking a different view of the same data to tell another side to the story: the important distinction between a clinical finisher and a reliable source of goals. Read more

FT Baseline

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

Over a typical Premier League season we would expect any given team to pick up more points per match against weaker opponents than better ones, relative to its own strength. Read more

It is said that money makes the world go round, but in football’s transfer market we can be a little more specific on that money’s provenance. Our interactive graphic explores the net spend of the 265 clubs in world football to have each spent £10m or more in total since 1980, grouped by country.

Any guesses on the identity of the country whose clubs spend the most? Read more

The game’s highly paid stars seeking bans to get holiday time off appears to be a myth Read more

goal scorers, Champions League and European Cup

By Wednesday night it is almost certain there will be a new name atop the goal scoring charts of European club football’s elite competition.

Lionel Messi currently sits level with former Real Madrid star Raul on 71 goals, and behind them is Cristiano Ronaldo on 70. Either Messi or Ronaldo could become the outright leader when their sides play on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

And the fierce competition between Messi and Ronaldo may even be ushering in a new higher scoring era. The goals-per-game ratio across all players declined steadily from four per match in the late 1950s to settle around 2.5 in the past decade, but has jumped back up to three in the past five seasons.

Looking back across the Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup, the 100 highest scoring players are packed with modern greats. And this is no coincidence – there are 126 matches in the current format, excluding qualifiers, up from fewer than 60 in the early years of the European Cup.

But that hasn’t stopped some of the greats of yesteryear breaking into the upper echelons of that top 100.

Alfredo di Stefano – one of 22 Real Madrid players on the list – scored 49 goals in the 1950s and 1960s, placing him sixth in the all-time rankings. Portugal and Benfica star Eusebio is two places behind on 46. So what happens when we adjust the absolute goal tallies for the number of matches each player took part in?

Eusebio tops the rankings, followed by former Manchester United forward Ruud van Nistelrooy. Messi, Raul and Ronaldo complete the top five, and then Ronaldo’s team mate Karim Benzema is sandwiched between two men who stopped playing before he was born – di Stefano and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas. Read more