After a few weeks of number crunching, I figured this would be a good time to relax a bit on the numbers and have more of a “fun” post. This isn’t meant to be anything crazy serious, just trying to find some really good players for really cheap using a few numbers. For today’s task, I’m going to try to “build” a team that can remain competitive while collectively having a market value under €110m (that equates to €10m per position). The market values themselves will come from transfermarkt.com, while any other valuations or decisions will be based upon numbers from squawka.com, whoscored.com, and the occasional eye test.
GK – Keylor Navas (Real Madrid, €8m)
While there’s no chance Los Blancos would sell their famed keeper for this price, Navas’ value on transfermakrt reflects his value over this past summer – which was rather low, considering he’d just come off a season on the bench and Real Madrid were actively looking to replace him. With him at the helm, though, Real Madrid’s defense is incredible. He’s got quick reflexes, strong hands, and has just been absolutely incredible.
RB – Fabinho (AS Monaco, €7.5m)
Fabinho has honestly been on my list of best right-backs in the world for a little over a year, and when I saw him on the list of low transfer values I got giddy. The young Brazilian tackled at a 48% clip, averaged roughly 5.0 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes, and completed crosses at nearly a 30% clip. His ability to combine effective defense and possession is outstanding – and he may just be the best RB in the game, regardless of what his market value is.
RCB – Marc Bartra (FC Barcelona, €12m)
I had to go a little over the €10m mark set here because there were just no good right-footed center back options for that price or lower. With some of the cushion I’d build it, I figured I could go over a bit and be fine. Bartra is a good guy to go over for, too. Last year he completed 20 out of 41 tackle attempts, and won roughly 4.75 balls back. On top of that, he moves forward rather well, linking with the midfielders and fullbacks impressively well for a central defender.
LCB – Aymen Abdennour (AS Monaco, €10m)
Abdennour is nearly the definition of a “stopper” at center-back. He won roughly 70% of his tackle attempts, and was a large part of the reason Kurzawa was given the freedom he was given with Monaco. His tackle and interception rate isn’t great (roughly 3.5), but his tackling ability is good enough that he makes up for it. He’s very smart about his challenges (just 10 fouls in 1500 minutes) and that allows him to win tackles at the rates he does. Having someone like Abdennour also provides great coverage for a CB like Bartra – who occasionally joins the midfield in attack.
LB – Benoit Tremoulinas (Sevilla, €6m)
Tremoulinas is a bit more attack-minded than Fabinho – but both are very similar. Tremoulinas won 22 of his 45 tackle attempts last season, and averaged 3.4 wins of the ball per 90 minutes. On top of that he created 1.1 chances per 90 minutes and completed crosses at roughly a 23% clip. While he’s not necessarily great on either side of the ball, he’s very good at both ends – and that adds a lot of value to a team.
MF – Xavi (Al Saad SC, €5m)
When Xavi left FC Barcelona he was still very much a useful piece. While he required plenty of rest and rotation at a club like Barcelona, he would still very much be good enough to start for a smaller, yet still competitive, club if he so pleased. The Spanish maestro completed 93% of his passes last season, while creating 2.6 chances per 90 minutes. He would need some coverage to help stop the flood gates from opening up on counter attacks, but he very much still has what it takes to control a midfield offensively.
MF – Javi Fuego (Valencia, €7.5m)
And here’s Xavi’s coverage. The Spanish defensive midfielder won over 5 balls back per 90 minutes while still completing 83% of his passes with an average distance north of 18m. His defense was impeccable, and his ability to simply recycle possession and move forward was outstanding. He won’t provide many creative moments with the ball at his feet, but his job is just to protect Xavi – and he’s good enough to do just that.
MF – Ever Banega (Sevilla, €10m)
Banega is more of a helpful piece moving forward. He also completed 83% of his passes (this time at nearly 19m per pass), but he provides the creativity that Fuego lacks. While Fuego didn’t create chances but won balls back, Banega is the exact opposite – he won’t win a ton of balls back, but he’s a creative mastermind. He plays as an attacking mid for Sevilla, but he’d be playing more of the same role he plays with Argentina, here. A very physical, box-to-box game with an emphasis on attacking.
CF – Nolito (Celta Vigo, €10m)
This could very much end up playing out as “LW – Nolito” instead of at center forward, but I think given the personnel it will turn into more of a CF position with him drifting between the left flank and the middle of the pitch. Last year the Spaniard created nearly 3 chances per 90 minutes, and was the only forward in Europe to create more chances than Lionel Messi. On top of that, he completed 75% of his passes with an average distance of nearly 18m despite playing on the front line. His creative vision will be key in the ability to link up with the midfield and continue creating chances for the front line.
ST – Michy Batshuayi (Marseille, €9m)
Batshuayi is what people typically think of as a striker. The young Belgian forward doesn’t create many chances (just 0.88 per 90 last season), but he shoots the ball and he hits the target a lot. Last season he averaged nearly 2.0 shots on target per 90 minutes and this season he’s averaging around 2.4 shots on target per 90. With a team that’s buzzing with creativity, Batshuayi is the guy they’ll need to finish of chances. The guy that can play with his back to the goal or link up, and will put the ball on target more times than not.
ST – Luuk de Jong (PSV Eindhoven, €8m)
This is probably why this formation turns into more of a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1 than a 4-3-3. De Jong is very much a central player in the attack, and while he could move wide on occasion, I think it’s more likely that he stay centrally – allowing Fabinho and Tremoulinas to provide the width. Last season, de Jong created nearly 2 chances per 90 minutes while also putting over two balls on target per 90 minutes. Even adjusting for the fact that he played in the Eredivisi those numbers are very, very good. This season he’s off to doing much the same – creating 2.35 chances per 90 minutes while putting the ball on target more than 2.5 times, as well. He should form a very nice partnership with both Nolito and Batshuayi to create and finish chances at highly incredible rates.
Bonus: DEF – Thomas Vermaelen (FC Barcelona, €6m)
The starting XI was only worth €93m, according to transfermakrt – so I decided to give myself a bench, as well. Thomas Vermaelen seemed to be great in this role, give the fact that he’s injury prone but a very good player when in. He missed all of last season due to injury, but this year he’s won 50% of his tackle attempts and averages nearly 5 interceptions per 90 minutes. While he’d be a great risk starting consistently, he should be a very good replacement in the backline.
Bonus: MF – Xabi Alonso (Bayern Munich, €6m)
Xabi basically played he same role he’d play in this squad with Bayern last season. While his defensive requirements were limited and he wasn’t often asked to push forward in the attack, he just sat deep – spraying balls across the pitch to the creative players ahead of him. For the season he completed 90% of his passes are nearly 20m per pass, which is astounding. For my money, I still prefer Xavi Hernandez to be the play-maker, but having a guy like Xabi Alonso come off the bench or rotate with El Maestro isn’t bad, at all.
Bonus: FW – Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao, €5m)
Williams isn’t a guy that really should be starting on any competitive squad, but he’s got some nice skill sets that would make him a great bench piece. This season he’s averaging nearly two shots on target per 90 while also creating a chance per 90 off the bench. He’s able to play any position on the front line – which makes him a great replacement for all of the forwards. When he and Nolito are on the pitch together the team can seamlessly move into a 4-3-3, while staying in their 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1 if he’s on for anyone else.
And there it is. It took some work, some research, and some sacrificing, but we’ve finally found a starting XI and a replacement at every line €110 million. How competitive do you think this squad would be?