It’s now normal to see Premier League sides look abroad for talent and the competition to sign players means that sides need to have great scouting systems. The top leagues in France, Italy, Spain and Germany are well known to the majority of sides, it’s unlikely that a Premier League club could buy a completely unknown player from these leagues. Scouting tools like Wyscout and computer games like Football Manager and Fifa mean that the overall knowledge of players is at an all time high. Sadly for clubs this means inflated price tags for players with a reputation, which is why we see the likes of Lazar Markovic costing £20m at the age of twenty.
If clubs like Everton, West Ham and Newcastle want players with a sell on value, they will have to go to more obscure leagues as talented players get a reputation so quick in the world game now. In a similar case to Markovic, Martin Odegaard has started to earn a reputation and he is only 15, with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United tracking the teenager, who has already played internationally. The Norwegian leagues aren’t well watched in Europe, yet he has started to get noticed by the continent’s biggest clubs. The transfer market is becoming more and more difficult for the smaller clubs to find hidden talents, which makes the discovery of Ayoze Perez and Diafra Sakho more pleasing for Newcastle and West Ham respectively.
Ayoze Perez made the move to Newcastle from Tenerife, who play in the Segunda division in Spain. He scored 16 goals in 34 matches last season, although he was predominantly played as an attacking midfielder, not a striker, as he is being utilised now at St James’ Park. Perez won the best attacking midfielder and breakthrough player awards in the prestigious end of season ceremony in Spain, which saw him rub shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. This is the stage he must ultimately be aiming for. The Spaniard has come a long way since being released by Tenerife as a teenager.
This season, he has started to make more of an impact as the months progress. Not many Newcastle fans expected Perez to play much in the first team this year, but after impressing in a host of cameos, injuries allowed him to start against Tottenham. Since that game he has scored three goals in three games, showing his ability to score in the Premier League. He is averaging a goal every 107.3 minutes, which is impressive considering his age and previous experience. His shooting accuracy is 71%, and he has shown his ability to score a wide range of goals, including with his head and finishes that require a lot of technical ability. Perez is a poacher who will score goals when given the opportunities. His dribbling abilities are impressive as his skill allows him to beat defenders, while he can also create, currently creating a chance every 80.5 minutes for his team mates.
Another player who has come over from a second tier abroad is Diafra Sakho, who fired FC Metz to the Ligue 2 title last season. His story is even more incredible as he is a player who up until last season had failed to impress in front of goal in the lower tiers in France. In 2012-13 he was prolific in the French third tier, and the confidence he took from that has carried forward until now. He has the physical attributes to be a top striker, but doubts will persist until he puts a few seasons of goalscoring form together in the top flight. Sakho is good in the air, can pass the ball and has a powerful shot on him. A lot of sides would have been skeptical to pay the transfer fee that FC Metz wanted given his poor record in previous seasons, but West Ham have reaped the rewards so far.
He got off to an incredible start, scoring in six successive league games for West Ham. His six goals have come at a goal every 107.8 minutes which is just worse than Perez. Sakho has been a mainstay in the Hammers’ side since joining the club, while Perez has had to earn his place. Sakho is also inferior when it comes to shot accuracy with only 38% finding the target. He also creates a chance every 107.8 minutes, with one of his chances leading to an assist. The Senegalese striker has shown his ability in the air winning 38.8% of his duels in the air, which will only improve as he adjusts to the physicality of the English game.
These two players have shown that players can be signed from lower down the pyramid in the continental game and become an instant success in England. This might be looked into more by mid table clubs especially as there is the opportunity to develop and sell on hugely talented players. This strategy does carry a great deal of risk, but the rewards are high. The task for these two now is to maintain their start to the season and continue to keep their goal tally ticking over. Sakho faces competition from Andy Carroll now, who will have to be used, given the amount of money West Ham spent on him, while Perez also has competition at Newcastle. They have both started well, but the main task is to push on from here and ensure their reputation continues to rise in the global game.