Monchi: Big Data is the future of football
Written by Simon Austin — April 19, 2019
SEVILLA Sporting Director Monchi says “Big Data is the future of football” and that engineers and physicists are more in demand than scouts.
The Spaniard returned to the club where he spent 17 seasons on April 1st following two ill-fated years with Roma. He said the club - and the game as a whole - was dramatically different to when he started out with them in 2000.
“Big Data and artificial intelligence are two names used by any club that wants to grow,” he told EPC Tracker. “Lately, more than scouts, we started looking for engineers, mathematicians, physicists and experts in statistics or algorithms.
“Big Data is the future of football. Not because you are going to buy a player based on the data, but because it reduces the risk.”
Big Data refers to very large data sets that can be used to reveal patterns and trends. Liverpool have a four-strong research team headed by Ian Graham that specialises in research and development, modelling, machine learning and analysis.
The members of the team have PhDs in maths and physics from institutions such as Harvard and Cambridge University. Last year, Arsenal hired Russian data scientist Mikhail Zhilkin, who has a Masters in physics and maths and had previously helped to develop Candy Crush games.
It’s a far cry from the early 2000s, when cones were sometimes used to calculate distances and speeds.
"Back in 2000, we put some cones out to count the metres that had to be covered,” Monchi remembered. “I had to call a provider to tell him to record the Barcelona v Atlético Madrid match because in five weeks we played against them. He sent it to me on video.
“Or when I called a cousin of mine who works in La Coruña to make a report about Deportivo. He sent it to me by mail. You would have 15,000 paper files and the only thing they did was accumulate space.
"Currently, in a work-out, you put a GPS on the back of a player and measure everything. You have the data available two minutes after finishing the training session. In the same way, in a virtual platform I have images and data of the players in a second.
“In a server shared with colleagues we can at the same time see documents and reports. I can send a coach to Peru and 30 minutes into the game I have the report.”