Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTo sign up or not to sign? How to judge a players' worth - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough To sign up or not to sign? How to judge a players' worth - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

To sign up or not to sign? How to judge a players’ worth

Consider this the second instalment of the ‘To deal or not to deal’ piece I did earlier when I compared the ROI, Liverpool and the high-flying Borussia Dortmund have got on the players they’ve added to their rota in the recent past. Just to jog your memory, remember that the Robert Lewandowski – who has now scored 10 goals in 11 UEFA Champions League matches and is poised to grab the Bundesliga golden boot cost the club a paltry 4.5 million Euros. The angle I want to pursue now is what actually prompts a club to finally say, ‘Yes, he’s worth the X million pounds, sign him up’.

It came to me as I was poring through a column in The Economist which contained an interesting book review. The author of the book wrote that one of the key ingredients that distinguish top American corporations is their rigorous recruitment process in which they seek, over and above talent, employees who will complement their corporate culture. McKinsey, one of these firms, is said to interview up to 200,000 aspirants every year, eventually hiring only 1% of them. Successful candidates have to sweat through a minimum of eight interviews before they can sign the dotted line.

Given the outrageous payslips football stars in Europe’s top leagues take home, one would think their recruitment process would be just as exacting, if not more. However, the evidence suggests otherwise in a good many clubs, the English Premier League’s QPR being a prime example (we looked at Liverpool in the preceding piece). By now it’s clear to even the most dyed in the wool QPR supporters that there is a slot in the Npower League with their name on it. Perhaps the most heartbreaking element in the inevitable end of their three-year stay in the premiership is that they seemed to have done everything right on the money side of things. Like Chelsea did a decade ago, QPR managed to lure in a wealthy benefactor in the shape of AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes.

And like Abramovich, QPR’s new majority shareholder showed little reluctance to loosen the purse strings to bring in the kind of talent that would help the Rangers mix it up with the big guns. Mark Hughes, seeking to oblige his boss, set about stadia from Old Trafford to Ewood Park filling his trolley with seasoned campaigners such as Ryan Nelsen, Andrew Johnson and Ji-Sung Park. The latter cost the club €2.5 million and a good chunk of Hugh’s troops arrived on free transfers. However, they all commanded sizeable pay packages. After Harry Redknapp replaced Mark Hughes following a series of indifferent displays, and the inevitable drop into the danger zone, the spending spree continued. The master of great escapes felt the need to further bolster the squad to accomplish the mission impossible placed before him. In came Christopher Samba from the lofty peaks of Dagestan for £12.5 million on the transfer deadline day. It wasn’t easy to persuade the man mountain to leave the nouveau rich Russian club and only after his £100,000 a week wage demands had been acceded to did he make for Loftus Road.   

Looking at QPR’s not-so-cheap signings from bird’s eye view, it appears the most sought-after commodity among potential recruits was experience, and Premier League experience to be precise. Of the 16 signings made this season, 11 were of players who’ve played in the EPL. The irony is that one of their most successful finds is a player from Ligue 1. Though he just arrived in January, he is already the club’s leading scorer.

About half of the West London outfit’s 2012/2013 acquisitions were free transfers and five are there on loan which paints the picture of a club scraping for the dregs after the big boys have drank their fill. The result is a squad list that looks like football’s has-beens coming together for a testimonial game. Of the 32 players in the first team, 20 are into their thirties. Perhaps the level of success of this transfer policy is best illustrated by the fortunes of the injury-ravaged Kieron Dyer. Having joined Hughes’ troops in the summer of 2011, he had been on the field for all of three minutes when he did his foot in and had to be stretchered off. He would make just seven more appearances for the Rangers before they decided enough was enough and shipped him out to Middlesbrough. It seems even a thorough medical examination is beyond the scope of QPR’s player recruitment process.

Such disastrous signings are a grave indictment on QPR’s scouting system. The fact that none of their first team members come from the club’s youth setup also speaks volumes about the level of ambition here. As summer looms, the whirlwind of transfer speculation has began gathering momentum and ‘Arry himself has hinted that many of his well-paid charges will be loath to play in the Championship. So where is the return for Mr. Fernandes for the estimated hundreds of millions of pounds he has channelled into signings and player wages?    

Phil Kimonge