Football is a fast paced continuous entity which can be reduced to a series of discrete events as we see so often in various highlight packages. These discrete events are often focused on goal mouth action, there too from the attacker’s perspective. Perhaps such sweeping statements are unfair to those who appreciate the art of defending but in general it would seem like defenders are deemed less glamorous than the big name strikers.
Less glamorous does not translate to less important. Most successful teams are a balanced, cohesive unit with individual and/or collective quality throughout the line-up. Football is a complex game with a simple objective i.e. finish the game with at least 1 goal more than your opposition. Simple logic will tell us that attaining this objective can be broken down into 2 complementary sub-tasks: maximizing the number of goals scored and minimizing the number of goals conceded.
Having established that the two are equally important, the question that arises is why is there such a discrepancy in the transfer fees? Prioritizing attack over defence, or indeed vice versa, seems like a foolhardy move and yet if the lopsided nature of transfer fees alone are anything to go by, then the defender is a less appreciated species. The reasons behind this perceived injustice are many and the good people who follow Outside of the Boot on Twitter were quick to put forth their views.
DEBATE: Why do clubs not spend big on goalkeepers/defenders? Will it be more beneficial than splashing on attackers? Share your opinion!
— OutsideoftheBoot.com (@OOTB_football) July 20, 2015
Defending is an art and not easily quantifiable
The most popular response was that transfers of defenders and goalkeepers are more difficult to get right. The entire field of data analytics fails to capture subtle characteristics of footballers, especially defenders. There is no metric for the number of times a defender was in the right position or the ability of a goalkeeper to marshall his defence.
@OOTB_football The right mentality is needed for back GK/DEF, special types of players.
— Hamoudi (@Hamoudi_LFC8) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football Also I guess a striker’s contribution is more noticeable and quantifiable
— EveryTeamNeedsARon (@ETNAR_uk) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football of attackers already, I don’t think we’ll ever see a defensive player become the worlds most expensive. Even if they are (2)
— Callum (@Callum871) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football returns more immediate when spending big on a striker than a defender or goalie
— Rob (@diegtristan8) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football probably. Atletico did what they did in 2014 mainly cause of their defense. While Liverpool came out trophy-less with SAS
— FarisFB (@FarisFSB) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football clubs think goals from the attackers wins you matches so they splash the cash on them.
— Red. (@unitedcorner) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football defensive contributions not as obvious – and while goals do win games, a clean sheet is a guaranteed point
— Caitlin (@4_3_tweet) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football Why do many managers insist on playing midfielders in defense? Answer is the same
— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football Think for talented young centerbacks the value has gone up. Eventually will for GKs. So few them available under 25 yrs old.
— Vic Charnetsky (@VanDerCharks) July 21, 2015
@OOTB_football it’s more about the demand for a player than his position. Price tag swells with demand- and reputation of course.
— Karthik Ramakrishnan (@redkopmersey) July 21, 2015
It’s all about the glamour and shirt sales
As mentioned earlier, the task of defenders is less glamorous. After all, if goals are indicative of the entertainment factor of the match, then the entire defence is counter-productive to it. Such kill-joys.
@OOTB_football off the top of my head – attackers are more glamorous and thus sell more shirts
— Max Bluer_Fútbol (@maxbluer) July 20, 2015
— Sinister Mephisto (@SnstrMephisto) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football It could be because goalkeepers and defenders aren’t marketable.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football For example are you going to sell many goalkeeping jerseys if a decent keeper arrives for big money? Doubt it.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football I’d imagine people buy more striker/MF jerseys than they do of defenders or goalkeepers. Just a guess, don’t agree with it.
— Stewart Robertson (@srobertson259) July 20, 2015
@OOTB_football because people tend to love they who can score. To remind, people buy shirt.
— alansetcetera (@alansetcetera) July 20, 2015
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