Analyzing the transfer market: Where did Belgian teams get value for their money?


Surpluses on outgoing transfers have become increasingly important for football clubs to balance the budget or make a profit. In this article we examine which outgoing transfers have been particularly successful for clubs in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League looking at the last 5 seasons (15/16-19/20). By assessing where the JPL's outgoing record transfers originate from, interesting leagues to look for players can be identified. Next to that, the article evaluates whether clubs could benefit from investing limited resources in their own academy where development costs per player are usually lower than transfer fees.

The graph below indicates that the most outgoing record transfers in the JPL (last 5 seasons) have found their origin from the Belgian youth academies. Belgian clubs have been able to sell youth products like Youri Tielemans, Leandro Trossard and Dennis Praet for lucrative amounts while the initial investment for these players was relatively low (only development costs compared to high transfer fees).

Regarding interesting markets to bring in players, the Slovakian Fortuna Liga stands out with 4 record transfers. Non-EU players like Wesley, Bailey, Kalu & Simon could acquire experience on European soil before going directly to a tougher league, giving them less difficulties to adapt to Belgian football. Next to that, players from the Slovakian Fortuna Liga were a good investment in terms of price/quality (Wesley: 1M EUR, Bailey: 1,40 M EUR,...) which allowed Belgian teams to sell them with a big surplus.

Other interesting leagues who stand out are the 1st division of Congo, which brought players like Samatta, Luyindama and Mbemba to the Belgian league. Scouting for players with resale potential also proved to be lucrative in Serbia (Milinkovic-Savic & Mitrovic), the 2nd division in the Netherlands (Danjuma and Limbombe) and Sweden (Colley and Aidoo) to name a few.

When looking at the total transfer gain (revenue from selling - cost to recruit the player), Belgian youth academies have brought the most value. Belgian youth products have a good reputation so that they could easily be sold to bigger leagues. With respect to interesting markets, the same leagues (as the previous figure come forward) with the Slovakian Fortuna Liga, the Serbian Super Liga, the Vodacom Ligue 1 (Congo DR) and the Keuken Kampioen Divisie (2nd division Netherlands).

The last figure gives an overview of the average transfer gain per player for outgoing record transfers from the seasons 15/16 until 19/20. Here the Norwegian Eliteserien comes out on top because of the transfer of Sander Berge to Sheffield Utd. The Norwegian 1st division is followed by Nigeria and Mali, where the transfers of Wilfred Ndidi and Moussa Djenepo broke records. Bringing in players directly from Africa to the Belgian league inhibits more risk, as players could have difficulties to adapt, but when they do, they are huge outgoing transfer successes. Bringing in players from higher ranked leagues like the Ligue 1 (France), Bundesliga (Germany), Italy (Serie A), seems to be less profitable looking at the average transfer gain, as their initial cost (transfer fee) is higher, decreasing the spread to make a huge profit. In accordance with the other figures, developing youth academy players presents itself again as a profitable business for Belgian teams. In times of decreased budgets as a result of the corona crisis, youth development could be the talent identification strategy for next years....