Machine learning can identify the world’s most overpaid and underpaid soccer stars

machine learning soccer
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
In the great Michael Lewis book Moneyball (that is also a superb 2011 movie), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team used a data-driven approach to put together a competitive baseball team, despite limited funds.

A new computer science project from Michigan’s Lawrence Technological University uses machine learning and data science to do a not-dissimilar thing for 6,082 European soccer players — through a computational model that calculates the world’s most over and underpaid players, based on skill. (The latter group is the one Billy Beane-style managers should presumably be most interested in!)

“It is common in sports to compare individual measurements,” Lior Shamir, one of the paper‘s co-authors, told Digital Trends. “However, soccer players have a combination of skills, so just comparing the number of goals gives a very partial representation of the player’s true value. What we did here is develop a computational model that combines 55 measured attributes that reflect the players’ abilities. When comparing that model to the salaries of the players, we can estimate the salary of each player based on their performance on the field, and in comparison to all other players.”

These 55 attributes include details such as scoring and passing accuracy, behavioral traits like aggression, and abilities including speed, acceleration, and ball control. The measurements were made by FIFA experts, and while Shamir acknowledges that there is some subjectivity involved, the use of 55 different measurements hopefully means that the subjectivities eventually balance out.

The study suggests that — for the most part — skill and remuneration are closely linked, although there are some stars who are considerably overpaid and those are underpaid. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi topped the most overpaid list for the 2016-2017 season, despite being a top player, while Bernardo Silva was the most underpaid.

Of course, Shamir notes that the model does not factor in other reasons why a player might be highly paid outside of his actions on the soccer pitch. “The model does not take into account the income that a superstar athlete can generate outside of the field,” he said. “Merchandise sales, broadcasting rights, and expansion of fan base are all important aspects when negotiating an athlete’s contract.”

So what is the take home if you are not a soccer fan? According to Shamir, it is the fact that studies like this offer a taste of what is in store when it comes to how we will be paid in the future.

“A computational approach is by nature objective, and can, therefore, address the concern of employees who are uneased by the belief they are underpaid compared to their co-workers,” he said. “It is difficult to get used to the idea that machines determine our salaries, raises, or bonuses, but that day is, in fact, very close.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

AKG's signature studio sound goes straight to your head with these stunning cans

With gorgeous looks and great sound, AKG’s N700NC are a formidable entry into the wireless noise-canceling headphone race. We put them to the test to see if they can beat out the absolute best in the business.
Computing

These laptop bags will keep your notebook secure wherever you go

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (December 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Computing

Having enough RAM is important, but stick to these guidelines to save some money

Although not quite as exciting as processors and graphics cards, RAM is one of the most important parts of your PC. Not having enough can hurt performance. So, how much RAM do you need?
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.