Recently Everton completed a quite unusual transfer deal. Although this entire window is a bit unusual for the Toffees, who are usually a bit understated in the transfer window, this particular deal is an outlier in terms of the price paid by them.
Generally, the high Premier League revenues mean that when English top tier clubs go shopping, whether amongst themselves or in Europe, the transfer prices are a bit (or a lot) higher than what the player’s ability, contract length, and current wages would suggest. Top clubs in other top European leagues also have to pay through their noses but in the Premier League, all clubs have to generally pay a premium.
But in signing the 22-year old striker Sandro Ramirez from Malaga, Everton have ended up paying (reportedly) lesser than what sites like Transfermarkt.com believe Ramirez’s price to be. Transfermarkt believe that Ramirez’s value as of now is €10 million but estimate that Everton have paid only €6 million for him. Of course, not all the terms of the signing and add-ons are known and the price might be a bit more or less but this is the transfer price most media outlets are estimating. Even Jordi Gris, the Barcelona scout who had scouted Ramirez in Canary Islands as a U-13 lad, has this to say, “For six million euros in this market… Hombre, you don’t get many players like Sandro.”
Why does he rate him so high? Let us hear what Gris has to say about Ramirez’s time in Las Palmas’ academy. “He had a natural gift for off-the-ball movement and the ability to play with both feet, something he still has today. He had a lot of confidence in himself and constantly demanded the ball, so he stood out even when he was 12-year-old playing with 14-year-olds. He was superior to the rest and his scoring record was unprecedented in the Canary Islands.” He feels that Sandro’s work-rate, temperament, tenacity, and pace that complement his finishing ability will make him a great alternative for Lukaku, who is very close to a move to Manchester Untited. Ramirez’s ability to play on both wings is also an added bonus for Ronald Koeman.
Obviously, Gris’ judgment is based on what he saw from Sandro in his youth days but did that potential translate into any meaningful performances for Malaga or Barcelona before that? Or is the low transfer fee reflective of mediocre capabilities? Let us look at some numbers to see if we can find out.
Sandro Ramirez scored 14 goals in 30 appearances for Malaga in the 2016-17 La Liga season. He also assisted three goals in the league. That is a goal contribution rate of a goal scored or assisted per 136 minutes, i.e. Sandro scored or created a goal every second game for them. Not only that, he scored in some difficult ties including against Athletico Madrid and Barcelona. Three of the 14 goals were game winning goals and in games that he scored in Malaga had a stunning points-per-game of 2.36. In fact, Malaga only lost two league games in which Sandro scored – against Athletico Madrid and Sevilla.
After signing at La Masia from Las Palmas at a young age, and after scoring 15 goals in 61 appearances across two seasons (2013-15) for Barcelona B, Sandro managed to break into the Barcelona senior team for a handful of appearances in the 2014-15 season. For Barcelona he scored four goals in that season, two in the league, one in Champions League and one in Copa Del Rey. His 2015-16 was relatively quiet, as despite not playing any games for Barcelona B, he scored only a hat trick against Villanovense in Copa Del Rey and assisted a La Liga goal against Eibar. He missed much of the second half of that season due to a tear in the abductor muscle, missing 13 league games for Barcelona. That he did not get enough chances – he played a total of 1,112 minutes for Barcelona across two seasons in all competitions – is not surprising given that their first team attack comprises of the MSN. Equally unsurprising is how pivotal he became for Malaga once he moved to them on a free transfer last summer.
Most of his goals, especially for Malaga, have come from the right foot but he is equally adept at using his left foot or his head to score. He can score from direct free kicks, as he showed with this amazing strike from an acute angle against Athletico Madrid. In general, he was a great threat in the attack for Malaga, as he shot 3.1 times per 90 minutes, with 37% accuracy, i.e. he had at least one shot on target every game. In addition, he created at least one shooting opportunity for his team members every game (Key Passes 1.1 per game).
He has pace to put in great runs and as per Wyscout, he put in 0.7 accelerations per 90 minutes, some of them from really deep in his own half. This could be of real value for Everton as Premier League opponents are likely to give them a host of counter-attacking opportunities.
He is also tenacious in trying to get the ball back from the opponents. For Malaga, he put in 0.9 tackles every game and managed to recover the ball 0.4 times every 90 minutes. For a defensive team like Malaga these are decent numbers and Koeman will hope to see an improvement for a more pressing (compared to the Spanish side) team like Everton.
Additionally, as per WhoScored, Sandro can hold the ball up very well, is adept at long shots and is good at passing. All these attributes are going to help him in Premier League as against top sides, he will need to hold the ball up, while against more defensive ones, he will need to shoot from distance.
These stats give us an idea of why Jordi Gris, as well as his Malaga team mates think so highly of him. Koeman will be hoping that Sandro, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Sunday, will improve further at Everton and will be able to fill in the firepower that Everton are going to miss after Lukaku’s move is sealed. If history is anything to go by, Sandro Ramirez might just prove to be a brilliant and bargain replacement for Lukaku.