Words: Sam Diss
Images: Offside Sports Photography

Analytics are a tricky business.

And while Xherdan Shaqiri’s first season at Liverpool has been pretty good, you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who’d put him up for “best signing of the season” awards. But the analytics community—faithful souls who live by the calculator and die by the calculator—say otherwise.

The Swiss international just narrowly missed out on the win—or as Americans call it, The W—for “Best Transaction” at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC) in Boston earlier this month. The SSAC brings together professionals, executives, students, and reporters to discuss the increasing role of analytics in sports and they picked linebacker Khalil Mack as the best transfer of the year. Chicago Bears picked him up from Oakland Raiders in a deal which Mack signed a six-year contract worth $141 million (featuring $90 million guaranteed) to become the highest-paid defender in NFL history. Lotta money.

But while words like “transaction” and “analytics” and “calculator” are all enough to break us out in anxious sweats, when you look at it, it’s hard to deny that Shaqiri’s signing was a tasty bit of business.

£13.5million for the 27-year-old is peanuts in the currently hyper-inflated market. With 21 appearances in the league with 10 starts this season, he's scored 6 goals and made 2 assists, which isn’t loads but in giving Klopp extra legs to help his Liverpool forwards have a breather, in the run-in, Shaq could end up being a factor in netting the Reds their first league title in, oh, a long, long time.

People who actually watch games outside of The Matrix might say that Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk have helped Liverpool much, much more, but who are you to argue with MIT? You’re nothing to them. Remember that.

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