Who has been the best signing that Fenway Sports Group have made since they arrived at Anfield?
There is a fair shout for Jurgen Klopp, one of the finest coaches of the last 20 years in European football, there's also a fair shout for the likes of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk. There's another name that merits being thrown into the mix.
Michael Edwards arrived at Liverpool as Head of Performance and Analysis in 2011, joining from Tottenham Hotspur. In his near 10 years at Anfield he has progressed to the role of Sporting Director and been at the heart of some of the biggest transfer decisions that the club has made, and his record of success is pretty much unrivalled across the continent.
Salah, Van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson to name four, Edwards has built a reputation for getting value for money, his data driven approach alongside the likes of director of research Ian Graham, statistical analyst Dafydd Steele and the scouting team headed up by former Northern Ireland international Barry Hunter paying dividends in ensuring that Liverpool get far more hits than misses when the window is open.
Clubs have put increasing weight behind data analytics and 'Moneyball', the term forming part of the modern-day football discourse thanks to the success with which it was implemented in baseball at the Oakland Athletics - and later turned into a movie of the same name with Brad Pitt in the lead - after Michael Lewis' seminal book charted the use of the model by the pioneering Billy Beane at Oakland. Getting more for less helped Oakland, a small market team, compete with the financial behemoths in Major League Baseball for a number of years.
Soon the secret was out and everyone wanted a slice of that action. Success without having to spend as much? Where to I sign?
One convert to data analytics and the notion of 'Moneyball' was FSG chief and Liverpool owner John W. Henry, who implemented something similar to great effect with the Boston Red Sox, hiring someone cut from the same cloth as Beane, Theo Epstein, to oversee the transformation from underachievers to a first World Series in 86 years back in 2004.
Henry, so impressed by Beane's pioneering ways, wanted the Oakland general manager to head up the project when he took over at Boston, an offer which Beane declined for family reasons.
Henry still remains enamoured with data and the negotiations with RedBall Acquisitions Corp, talks that broke down last month, would have seen him finally get to work with Beane.
Beane's RedBall business partner Gerry Cardinale remained at the table to discuss private investment through his RedBird Capital Partners firm, something that could see him take a 10 per cent stake in FSG in the next six weeks.
And like Beane and Henry, Cardinale has a keen eye for data analytics and has invested in companies that do just that. It is a model that FSG see great value in and one that they are likely to heavily pursue for as long as they remain at the helm at Liverpool. It has delivered a Champions League and Premier League title in the last two years, but can it be a sustainable model moving forward for sustained success?
Is Moneyball the only way to get ahead or are the traditional ways of scouting still the most effective ways to do business in the transfer market?
Jeremy Steele was a coach at Chelsea, Brentford and Portsmouth and worked with Edwards at Fratton Park as part of the backroom team.
A firm believer in the importance of data in modern football, Steele co-founded the firm Analytics FC, where he serves as CEO presently.
Analytics FC's use of a predictive model, known as the Markov chain, focused on finding the hidden value of players away from basic statistics. They now work with Leeds United, West Brom and West Ham, as well as clubs across Europe including HJK Helsinki in Finland, KV Kortijk, Westerlo and OH Leuven in Belgium, Pafos FC in Greece and Riga FC in Latvia. They will soon be working with Burnley following their takeover by American investment firm ALK Capital.
Jeremy Steele of Analytics FC: "Liverpool were the first club we pitched to and I knew Michael Edwards from his time at Portsmouth. We went up to meet with Ian Graham and Dafydd Steele.
"Liverpool have come on leaps and bounds since then, they use tracking data, they use physical data and all sorts of different types. When we approached them with our platform it was a really nice conversation because they were quite surprised at our platform and what we were doing, but also a little bit annoyed as we used the same method as them, a Markov chain model.
"Things like Wyscout are very important and able to show video, but it is raw data. What we have done is build an algorithm that is predictive and what you are doing is looking for underlying information on the player, not just what they have done historically.
"Our model takes the contribution of each player to the probability of scoring. Basically you work back from the probability of anywhere on the pitch scoring and saying one person has moved the ball from this zone to this zone and this has increased our probability of scoring by X amount. For every action that happens on the pitch you are basically calculating the probability of your team scoring by that action happening, or decreasing for that matter.
"At the end of a game it tells you who has contributed more to the final outcome of a game. It tells you, basically, goal difference, that this player has added say 0.6 of a goal through his actions, whether it be attacking or defensive. This is where models are starting to move towards.
"Until now when clubs have been using it hasn't been Moneyball. Until now the definition of Moneyball, what Michael Lewis wrote about in his book, was finding undervalued talent and analysing the data of the player and marrying that up with the financials such as salaries and transfer fees. Moneyball is trying to find players who give you more output for less money.
"You need a model to be predictive and be able to see who the main contributors are to the outcome of a game.
"This type of approach reduces risk for clubs in the transfer market, absolutely.
"When you have clubs who are truly data driven, like Liverpool, they take into account all sorts of things, so I know right now they are using data from a company called Skill Corner for physical data, so all the data you would get from GPS from your own team about stuff like distance covered, when you layer that on top of our data, then injury data you get a really good overview of a player.
"That is the different between statistics and analytics. Analytics takes that data and puts it through an algorithm to produce something predictive. Moneyball is being able to make a prediction of something. Liverpool are very good at this."
Three triumphs of data analysis for Liverpool have come from taking undervalued players for a reduced fee from relegated clubs.
Gini Wijnaldum, Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri have all won Champions League and Premier League winners medals with Liverpool. All three experienced relegation from the Premier League before Liverpool signed them, Wijnaldum at Newcastle United, Robertson at Hull City and Shaqiri at Stoke City.
Said Steele: "A good example with Liverpool is the Markov chain model is good at taking individual performance outside of the team. So if a player plays five or six fantastic passes and has a high contribution to the chance of scoring, even if the player who receives the ball ends up losing it or not getting a shot on target our model will give a value to that player for those passes. So it doesn't care what happens next or that the team didn't produce a good performance, it will take the player on their own individual performance.
"A great way that Liverpool have used that model is that for three seasons running they took a player from a team that got relegated. They took Andrew Robertson from Hull City, Gini Wijnaldum from Newcastle United and Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City. All those teams went down and all those teams were poor but Liverpool found value in that data. If you would have taken their raw data they probably would have looked pretty pants. This algorithm looks at the underlying performance and that has allowed clubs to get these players on the cheap."
For Liverpool the data is of great significance, but some argue that data is only useful when it forms part of a wider recruitment structure, to be used as a piece of the pie instead of the whole of it.
Californian Jordan Gardner has a keen interest in European football. An investor at Swansea City and Irish side Dundalk and owner of Danish First Division outfit FC Helsingør, Gardner has seen the value of data analytics but believes it can only be one of the pillars to success, not putting the same amount of weight behind it as some others, a notable example being fellow Danish side FC Midtjylland, a club who have used it to great success in recent seasons.
Gardner said: "We have a scouting network still because it remains hugely important.
"I think where the data is important is taking a huge set of players and narrowing it down to get eyes and ears on those players. Data also can't assess the characteristics of a player. Say you sign a player from South America and bring them to the Premier League there is a lot of variables at play in terms of whether they can make the transition from a mental perspective.
"Data is an important tool but it is only one tool of many that you need in my mind, part of a larger puzzle.
"When you look at Liverpool's success they have used data very well and they have been very sophisticated but they have a fantastic manager. Look at the big picture, Jurgen Klopp is a fantastic motivator of men and I think there is a lot more to it that just saying they have done a great job with data analytics.
"You do see people particularly in North America say that Moneyball is the right way to do things and the only way to be successful. But Moneyball isn't just about using data, it's about being more sophisticated and doing things like signing better contracts, making better decisions, getting more with less.
"We're the most efficient team in the Danish First Division. That's not because we're doing some crazy Moneyball thing, and we use data, but we have five different pillars to what we do.
"Clubs can go too far with it. Ownership groups in particular, Americans especially, can get enamoured with data and think 'OK, cool, I've got this sophisticated data system and we are going to find these players that nobody else can find. They are like these magic buzzwords, data and Moneyball, and that does a disservice to what the value of data is. People can significantly over value it."
Not everyone agrees in the data driven approach.
For some data analytics and 'Moneyball' can only serve to affect the overall football product, not taking into account the characteristics of those maverick players who can light up a game in a split second, instead focusing on the numbers and missing the individuality that makes football so breathtaking at times.
Former Head of European Recruitment at Everton, Sunderland and Aston Villa, Ian Atkins said: "When you are in recruitment you are connecting with people; agents, sporting directors. The people that are doing the data stuff now, a lot don't know anybody. There is no communication.
"We used to find out when you were abroad, you'd talk and pick things up from other people as well. It doesn't happen anymore as people are stuck in an office crunching numbers.
"Football is totally different to baseball and American football, you need to be accomplished at a wider skill set.
"If we're not careful, through Moneyball and Brentford, Barnsley and the rest who keep telling us this is the way forward, it is so predictable and it's boring. If too many clubs start adopting this in the Premier League and the Championship then the standard of the game drops. For me, it already has.
"Where are the technical players? There's only Jack Grealish and Phil Foden that really light you up. Data doesn't measure unpredictability or creative ability, it doesn't. It also doesn't measure all kinds of things, the little dips and everything. What you are left with is your centre half can be the best player on the pitch and he plays 50 balls square.
"Hopefully people will soon realise because the game will be so boring. It would be like watching a game of chess, and would you pay to watch a game of chess?"
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For Steele, the use of data is driven from the top and in order for it to work it has to be an 'all in' approach from ownership to recruitment staff to first team management.
Some have dabbled, some continue to dabble because it is seen as the way to conduct business in the modern game, while others have no real desire to do so.
Steele added: "Liverpool and Tottenham haven't ever really been the big spending guys. Arsenal used to be like that under Arsene Wenger until that all stopped.
"A club like Manchester United, say they hire a big team of 10 or 15 people as opposed to the four or five Liverpool have and they say they are going to outgun Liverpool on data. I don't think that it will make a difference to United, the same as Manchester City, they are still going to go out and spend big on a marquee player because that is their model. There are some clubs who have an identity of being that type.
"Barcelona have loads of stuff going on, they have their own innovation lab and stuff like that, but I don't think that they use analytics at all, or at least it isn't obvious when you see their transfer policy. It is about clubs buying into it as a whole, and that comes from the top.
"Everton don't buy into data I don't think, I think they buy into good scouting under Marcel Brands, I'm sure that's what he has sold to the board. Same for United and Man City, I know City have lots of people who work on data but I don't really see any evidence of them buying into it.
"I think that there will always be someone at the club who says thanks for the data, but now we need to do some due diligence, now we need to speak to the ex-coaches, ex-players and his agent and really find out about him.
"If you have a bad transfer window it can be the difference between winning the league and not. If you have a bad three transfer windows then your club is going to struggle in the Premier League. If you have a bad five or six transfer windows then you are basically Arsenal.
"Liverpool have firepower to spend but I think they adopt this strategy out of necessity. The Mohamed Salah transfer, obviously, was genius, as was Virgil van Dijk. A lot of people would have questioned those beforehand I think, but that is where the data gave them more confidence.
"There was a period for Michael Edwards where he made zero mistakes, buying and selling. He sold Dominic Solanke at the right time, got rid of Daniel Sturridge at the right time and brought in Van Dijk and Salah at the right time. There wasn't a mistake in there and that isn't achievable always, you are always going to get the odd mistake. There will be a transfer window where he has more misses than hits, that is just reality and footballers are humans, the data can only take you so far."