• Orbay Ünsoy

Student thesis: Phd


This study sets out to build a conceptual decision-making framework based on the objectives pursued in player recruitment and to investigate player typologies in European club football. The existing literature in talent identification has not dealt with the wide range of sporting, organisational and financial aspects that concern the recruitment of first-team players in European football. Further, conventional playing positions provide a rough idea of the tasks that players are expected to perform. Yet, the increased pace and demands of today’s football call for an enhanced understanding of the technical skill sets and functions of players that go beyond the player positions. Using value-focused thinking, four fundamental and nine means objectives pursued by key decision-makers of European football clubs in player recruitment are identified and analysed. These objectives are later presented in a means-ends network that visualises the studied decision-making context's multidimensional nature. Following that, the technical performance indicators of 920 players fielded in the top three European football leagues during the 2017/18 season are examined via principal component analysis and agglomerative hierarchical clustering. In the principal component analysis phase, three off-possession and four on-possession skill sets are introduced to characterise the contributions of footballers. Later, six major clusters and nineteen sub-clusters are identified that can be utilised to categorise technical player functions. It is then illustrated how the framework could be beneficial in supporting the recruitment decision-making of football players in a case study. The significance of this study is that it informs the theoretical understanding of the decision-making context in the recruitment of first-team players in European football. Furthermore, examining player skill sets and functions offers a deeper theoretical perspective beyond the conventional player positions for further research in sports management and sciences.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorYu-Wang Chen (Supervisor) & Richard Allmendinger (Supervisor)


  • value-focused thinking
  • cluster analysis
  • player recruitment
  • data analytics
  • football analytics

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