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The Daily Rojiblanco: August 10, 2017

Economic analysis and more on a slow news day.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

While there is little in the way of spicy headlines to report today, an interesting article from Marca suggesting that Atlético Madrid are “the most efficient club economically in Europe” is certainly worth investigating. However, before we get to that, here are the relevant headlines of the day:

  • Per reports, striker Kevin Gameiro has returned to training after a groin operation in late June. Estimates at the time placed Gameiro’s return at 6-8 weeks so his recovery appears to be on or slightly ahead of schedule. He is still set to miss the Liga Santander opener at Girona.
  • UEFA officials will be in Madrid today and tomorrow to inspect Estadio Wanda Metropolitano ahead of Atlético’s group stage entry into the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League. Such inspections are par for the course, but may be complicated by the fact that stadium construction is not yet complete.
  • AS say that Gabi, Juanfran and Fernando Torres will receive automatic one-year extensions if they each play at least 25 games this season. Should be reachable for at least two, if not all three, players. Another report from that publication says canteranos Sergi González (left back) and Keidi Bare (midfielder) are on the verge of joining the first team.
  • AS also did some investigating and concluded that Atleti’s most-expensive XI is still cheaper than Neymar. So yeah, that’s a thing!
  • Economic efficiency is the name of the game, maybe.

Now to that report from Marca. Though the underlying claim they put forward may be accurate, the numbers and methodology are dubious and warrant some quick analysis.

The study cites two specific sets of data in making its calculations:

1. The UEFA Club Coefficient, which ranks clubs based on their performance in European competition over a period of five seasons.

2. The 2017 Deloitte Football Money League report, which ranks clubs based on their annual revenue (income before expenditures) from football operations. Data for the 2017 report encompasses the 2015/16 season.

In Atlético’s case, the numbers we’re working with after some rounding are (1.) 133.7 earned UEFA coefficient points (represented in the Marca report as 133,700 points), good for second overall, and (2.) €226.2 million in revenue for 2015/16, good for 13th overall.

So, 133,700/222.6=585 UEFA points per million euro earned!

Seems exciting, especially when you consider the next highest ranked club by this measure, Zenit Saint Petersberg (!?), clock in at a measly 368 points, while Real Madrid and Barcelona languish at 244 and 207 points respectively. For shame.

However, when you really consider the numbers we’re working with, a different picture emerges. First, the analysis here involves averaging UEFA performance over five seasons versus revenue from a single season. Second, the available UEFA points for a given club are finite, while possible revenue is theoretically infinite.

Third, and most telling, this measure of “efficiency” simply punishes bigger clubs for generating more revenue. Real Madrid’s slight edge in UEFA points (151.7 to Atleti’s 133.7) is offset by their huge advantage in revenue (€620.1 million to Atleti’s €222.6 million) for an average of 244 UEFA points per million euro earned.

At the end of the day, they simply earned more UEFA points (let alone three Champions League titles in that five-year span) and made a lot more money. Excuse my cynicism, but my guess is our hated rivals are laughing all the way to the bank, and the trophy case.

To be sure, I think a strong case can be made that Atlético do more with less as well as any club in Europe. And indeed, their dogged tenacity under Diego Simeone is a big part of why we love them. I’m just not convinced that this is the best way to go about demonstrating their efficiency, economic or otherwise.

Certainly a ratio of points earned to money spent on players (salaries and transfers) in that same time span would be more telling. However, accurate and comprehensive figures for player salaries are a bit more difficult to tack down.

That’s my take, at least. If you have a different view of these numbers or how we measure success and efficiency in club football, let us know in the comments!