Spezia have so far defied the odds to survive back-to-back seasons in Serie A, having never played in the top flight before 2020. In 2023, they face a third consecutive relegation battle, and owner Robert Platek faces questions on how best to evaluate and influence the short-term needs of the club through the January transfer window.
We’ve developed a methodology that helps owners and boards build a transfer window strategy. Specifically, our modelling enables clubs to quantify the likely performance return of any investment, and therefore determine how and how much to invest in the squad and/or other sporting operations. In January this is particularly important given demand for talent outstrips supply, leading to premiums often in excess of 20%.
The starting point for any club is to recognise risk in the form of probabilities. According to our league projections, Spezia have a 35% chance of being relegated as things stand today. Any significant changes to the squad or operational approach only serves to manage that risk; football is a low-scoring sport, and even if Spezia were to play well for much of the rest of the season, bad luck in just a few games would be enough to relegate them. Any changes or spending is therefore designed to reduce the impact that bad luck can have.
Our methodology allows us to understand how much spending really does mitigate that risk. We know, for example, that net transfer spend in January has just a 5% positive correlation with change in points per game, and that €20m in net spending has delivered on average just a 0.03 increase in points per game in the big 5 leagues since 2015.
Looking specifically at Spezia’s squad and situation, our models suggest that €5m of investment into the team would only reduce their chances of relegation to 34%. That assumes the money is spent as efficiently as an average club; if Spezia can identify players whose true value is €14m but at a cost of €7m – perfectly achievable with a smart player scouting and recruitment process – their relegation chances drop towards 30%. The difference is small but potentially significant in expected future broadcast rights, matchday, and sponsorship income over the coming years.