Billy Beane, the mastermind of the ‘Moneyball’ system of recruitment used in the USA, says young Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg could prove to be a “shrewd” signing.
Van den Berg signed from Dutch side PEC Zwolle last summer for a fee that could rise to £4.4million.
The 18-year-old has made four senior appearances in his debut season, including three in the EFL Cup.
Indeed, he was thrust into the limelight alongside his fellow youngsters when Liverpool had to play two games in two days, including facing Aston Villa in the League Cup.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Beane – whose feats in Major League Baseball were adapted into a film – praised the work done by Liverpool in bringing Van den Berg to Anfield.
“Last year, Liverpool picked up a young man who was playing in Eredivisie as a 15 or 16-year-old, Sepp van den Berg,” he said.
“To me, that transaction was fascinating because everyone is looking for young players, and just because somebody is young doesn’t mean that they are going to be a great player.
“What is interesting is when you take a 15 or 16-year-old – in the States, he would be in his second year of high school – and if he is playing at the average Eredivisie level and he is 15 or 16, that to me is the real exploitation of data.
“We’ll see how it turns out, but there was a lot of evidence that it was an incredibly shrewd, cost-effective risk to take on a guy that you had data on at a very young age.”
Van den Berg arrived as part of a summer in which Liverpool chose to focus on youth. As well as the Netherlands Under-19 international, the club also brought in midfielder Harvey Elliott.
LIVERPOOL LITTERED WITH SHREWD SIGNINGS
Elsewhere, Beane has said Mohamed Salah is another example of a player who has defied the odds at Liverpool.
The Egyptian cost the Reds almost £40million, seen as an eye-catching sum at the time.
However, he has scored 94 goals in 150 games and Beane says he is a perfect example of Liverpool’s successful approach under their FSG ownership.