Leyland: Why players employ their own analysts & how to make it work
Written by Simon Austin — September 26, 2023
TOP players are increasingly employing their own analysts and it’s a trend that clubs would be “silly” to fight, says City Football Group Head of Coaching Methodology Mark Leyland.
Speaking on the TGG Podcast (which you can listen to below), Leyland used forward Divock Origi - with whom he had worked at Liverpool - as an example of a player who had used a personal analyst.
“I very rarely talk about individuals, but Divock was someone who was really intelligent,” Leyland said. “He spoke four or five different languages fluently and he had his own Wyscout account and his own access to an analyst and therapist.
“He was very much at the forefront of what an elite athlete should look like, despite being a young man. He was someone I worked quite closely with and really enjoyed my time working with him and he’s still doing pretty well for himself at the moment and hopefully continues to do so.”
This is all part of a wider trend of players becoming “independent entrepreneurs” - a phrase coined by Germany Team Manager Oliver Bierhoff. The rationale behind this is that players - rather than the club they happen to be with at a particular time - should be the drivers of their own careers.
Speaking in 2017, Bierhoff said: “Professional soccer players are a kind of independent entrepreneur and have to think about the path they’re taking, even during their active career.
“Are they going to hire a chef or physiotherapist? How are they going to position themselves in their personal marketing? How do they organise their private life? Getting out of their own surroundings and meeting other young entrepreneurs who are taking a risk and have their own convictions is immensely important.”
We have seen several examples of this, in a number of different areas. In 2021, Kevin De Bruyne hired a data analytics company to compile a report about his importance to Manchester City to help in his contract negotiations with the club.
Leyland says players hiring their own analysts is a part of this wider trend, although he does admit that it divides opinion. He argued that the key was club staff working in collaboration with the player and their analyst.
“I know it’s a debate within football, whether it’s a positive or negative sometimes, because what their analyst is trying to educate them on and what the coaching staff are trying to educate them on might look slightly different, but there’s lots of players who have their own therapists now, their own physio, their own mindset coach, so it is a multi-disciplinary approach to the bigger picture of football now,” he said.
“So it’s silly for a club or analyst or coach to try and fight it, it’s better to bring it in and try and embrace it and enhance it from within. So yeah, there’s more and more players doing it.
“From my experience it hasn’t been a challenge. There have been times when someone has brought a few clips, a few timestamps even, or an organiser project - they are very handy at using their own software now - and asked for opinion.
“But it’s very much a conversation rather than an argument; it’s a discussion rather than a heated debate. Everyone want to get better. If the player thinks this may make them better, the coach may be able to explain yes it can or no it can’t.”