Loyalty, recruitment, brain types and the ABC-model

Player agents often complain about the lack of loyalty of the players they have signed. They assume that loyalty is an inherent trait some players have and others don’t. Of course, it is painful to see one of your biggest talents sign with a different agency just before their big breakthrough. In most cases leaving the agency has little to do with loyalty and more to do with the player’s brain type and the ABC-model. In this article I will describe what an agent can do to breed loyalty into his players.

First of all, the whole idea of people having traits is a backward idea. In reality people acquire knowledge through associative learning and skills through instrumental learning. In terms of football: associative learning gives you game intelligence and instrumental learning gives you technique. How do we know whether a player has game intelligence or technique? We see that in how the player behaves. For we cannot look into the soul of the player.

The behavioral patterns of a player are, for the most part, acquired through instrumental learning. Through instrumental learning the brain creates probabilistic relationships between the behavior and what this behavior gets you. The brain of the star player has learned in extreme detail how to shoot the ball in order to get the result the player wants: a goal. Instrumental learning works according to the ABC-model. In this model A stands for Antecedent which is everything that happens before the behavior or is necessary to make the behavior possible. B stands for Behavior, the desired or undesired behavior you are targeting. C stands for Consequence which is everything that happens after the behavior. There is overwhelming evidence that Consequences have a much, much bigger influence on our future behavior than Antecedents. Nevertheless, in most cases we continue to try to influence people through Antecedents rather than through Consequences.

‘So when it comes to loyalty, there isn’t an inborn trait that some players have and others don’t. Instead, there is the history of all the Consequences that the agent has given in response to the behavior of the player. To understand this you first have to specify the desired behavior. To do this we have to take MARCO into account. Behavior is only behavior if it is:

  • Measurable. If you can’t measure it, it ain’t behavior.
  • Active. If a dead person can do it, it ain’t behavior.
  • Reliable. If you can’t measure it reliably, i.e. different people come up with completely different measurements, it ain’t behavior.
  • Controlled. If it is not under the control of the actor, it ain’t behavior.
  • Observed. If it is impossible to observe, it ain’t behavior.

As you can see: loyalty ain’t behavior. Loyalty can’t be measured, a dead person can be loyal, if you can’t measure it, you can’t measure it reliably, loyalty is not under the control of the actor and you can’t observe it directly. So we have to specify the behavior that makes us think that a player is loyal. Most agents would specify that behavior as the player not signing up with another agent. But here, the first mistake is made. Dead persons never sign contracts with other agents. So not signing a contract, ain’t behavior either. Instead the right specification is to honor the contract the player signed. Dead persons can’t honor contracts. You can measure how long the player is honoring the contract and you can measure this reliably. Honoring the contract is completely under the control of the player. And we can easily observe the player honoring the contract.

So the desired behavior is honoring the contract and the undesired behavior is signing with another agent. The ABC-model teaches us that players do more of what has been rewarded with positive consequences in the past; in the same way players do less of what has been punished or penalized in the past. A player breaking his contract and signing with another agency, doesn’t do so out of disloyalty, but because honoring the contract has not given him enough positive consequences. On top of that honoring the contract with the agency always has at least one negative consequence. For the fee that the player pays the agent, is experienced in the brain as a penalty. Players want money, so spending money is a negative consequence. It is the task of the agent to compensate for this negative consequence, by more positive consequences. At first the agent does this by promising the player more positive consequences. But these promises are Antecedents and have little impact on the future behavior of the player.

Only when the player really does get what he wants as a result of him honoring the contract, only then the player gets a positive consequence. So the ability to get the player signed with a big club for a high salary, is the most important job of the agent. Yet, this happens only every few years. That means that after the first signing the agent made possible, it will take a long time before the next big positive consequence will be there to reinforce the player’s brain to honor the contract. Furthermore, this future positive consequence is also uncertain. The player might get an injury that ends his career. Or it may turn out that he is less talented than thought before. Or just a case of bad luck. Research clearly shows that long term uncertain positive consequences have way less impact on the behavior of a player than short term certain consequences. Therefore the agent has to make sure that the player is rewarded short term with a high degree of certainty for honoring his contract. If an agent does this then the player will continue to honor his contract and everybody will think that he is a very loyal player. Whereas in fact it is the behavior of the agent rather than the player that makes the player appear to be loyal.

What kind of short term positive consequences are there for the agent to give to the player? In short the agent can choose between the following categories:

  1. Material rewards:
    1. Direct material rewards: food or drinks.
    2. Indirect material rewards: money or valuables.
  2. Social rewards:
    1. Attention. It is important that the agent regularly checks in with the player to ask how he is doing.
    2. Compliments. If the player achieves something on the pitch during a match, make sure he is complimented for it as soon as possible after the match.
    3. Status. An agent can create different classes of players within the agency so a player feels he is promoted within the agency as he develops. Just make sure that you set-up the program in such a way that there are only winners.
    4. Information. Many players love to have access to the statistics of how they did or video’s of their best actions.
    5. Opportunities to develop one self. Players not only want to become better at football, they also want to develop themselves mentally.
    6. Keep their social media up to date. Keeping their social media up to date has negative consequences for players as it takes time and energy. So often they love it if the agent takes care of it. Updating their social media accounts as soon as possible so the player sees his fans rewarded as soon as he comes off the pitch, is a positive consequence for most players. Also because this enhances their status.

As players most of the time get plenty of material rewards, the best choice for agents is to go for social rewards. The easiest way to discover what kind of rewards the player is looking for is by asking the player himself. This may seem obvious, yet it is the second mistake most people who use the ABC-model make. They fall into the pit called the Perception Error and assume they know what is a positive reward for the player. So ask your players, how they can be rewarded on top of everything they already get from the club. 

Brain types

The third mistake is disregarding brain types. In the same way that there are different body types, we also have different brain types. Your brain type determines your evolutionary behavioral patterns. These behavioral patterns determine:

  1. How you are motivated.
  2. How you deal with your emotions.
  3. How you learn.

Brain types determine in a large part how the Dopamine reward system in your brain works. Therefore, if you know someone’s brain type you can predict with a high probability how you can reward him with positive consequences. Here is the list of positive consequences for each brain type:

Type #1, the Perfectionist can be rewarded with control.

Type #2, the Helper can be rewarded with love and attention.

Type #3, the Successful Worker can be rewarded with material rewards and hopeless projects where he has a small chance of becoming the project’s hero.

Type #4, the Romantic can be rewarded with justice served.

Type #5, the Analyst can be rewarded with autonomy, personal freedom and being left alone.

Type #6, the Loyalist can be rewarded with safety.

Type #7, the Hedonist can be rewarded with new things to do and variation.

Type #8, the Boss can be rewarded with power.

Type #9, the Mediator can be rewarded with harmony.

As loyalty also is an evolutionary behavioral pattern, some brain types have special issues concerning loyalty as can be seen from this list:

Type #1, the Perfectionist has no special issues with loyalty. Yet, as Perfectionists feel that they must act in accord to the morals of the group, it helps if you make honoring your contract one of high principles endorsed by the whole group.

Type #2, the Helper has no special issues with loyalty. Yet their craving for love and attention is so high that if the agent fails to make compliments, give little presents and keep in touch with them, the agent risks being put in the so-called out group and that will lead to a parting of the ways.

Type #3, the Successful Worker has an issue with loyalty. Successful Workers are very loyal when they are relaxed. If they are stressed, they seek social stability. In both cases it is unlikely that they would break their contract. Unfortunately, when neither stressed, nor relaxed, they become reckless, antisocial and highly sensitive to material rewards and promises of material rewards. In that state, they can be easily poached by other agents.

Type #4, the Romantic has no issues with loyalty. In fact, if breaking the contract is seen as an injustice it is unlikely that the Romantic will break the contract. On the other hand, if the agent’s actions appear to be unjust toward the player, other players, clubs or people in general, they might very well break their contract even if it means a worse outcome for themselves.

Type #5, the Analyst has no issues with loyalty. If it is clear for the Analyst that he has lots of autonomy, personal freedom and is left alone, he will not risk losing this by signing with another agent.

Type #6, the Loyalist has issues with loyalty as the name implies. It will take quite some time and thorough research by the Loyalist before the Loyalist signs with an agent. Nevertheless, once they sign, they honor their contract. Not so much out of loyalty, but because they see too much risk in breaking the contract. Unfortunately, Loyalists are probably underrepresented in football as the game and the culture are not their thing.

Type #7, the Hedonist has no issues with loyalty. The one thing to watch out for is that if the Hedonist stresses he becomes quite sensitive to material rewards. Furthermore, there is the risk that he lacks a clear sense of morality. Meaning that if stressed, the Hedonist can easily be bribed, even illegally, to sign with another agent.

Type #8, the Boss has no issues with loyalty. In fact, the Boss likes to receive a clear manual from a higher power he respects. He then blindly follows the rules in the manual and will in fact enforce these rules with other players. So if there is a rule in the manual that states that you always will honor your contract he will do so and he will try to forcefully make other players within the agency comply with that rule as well.

Type #9, the Mediator has no issues with loyalty. In fact, the Mediator is likely to become dependent on the agent and would find it emotionally difficult to leave the agency. As most players have a type #9 brain, this is the common experience of agents. They mistake these dependency issues for loyalty and then complain that the other players lack these issues. 

So besides using the ABC-model to positively reinforce honoring the contract, it is also smart to take into consideration the brain type of each player.

General introduction to the personality of football players based on Cybernetic Big Five Theory

To start first a quote of one of the football agents that use this system for better understanding and supporting their players:

Just wanna let you know about my first meeting with the player yesterday.
Spend 2 hours talking about #3 successful worker.
He was blown away and could definitely see himself in the things I presented and pointed out.

It was fantastic to have something that concret to talk to a new player about, and it made our relationship strong from the beginning.
I have a very, very good feeling about the player and the things we have decided to work with in the future.

Soon i´ll set up a meeting with the next player.
I have a very strong relationship with him already, and I look forward to knowing about his brain type 🙂

See you soon!

Best from Denmark
René Lundgaard
Footballers Collective

Once you have watched this video, you understand that there are nine sets of evolutionary behavioral patterns. And that these patterns are dynamic. If a player is stressed he behaves in a different way than when he is relaxed or when he is neither stressed or relaxed (what we call “neutral”). What creates the biggest chance for the player to reach peak performance depends on his brain type and his position. Below you can see each of these nine dynamics and there relevant evolutionary behaviors from Cybernetic Big Five Theory:

Davy Klaassen to Ajax

Based on the Wyscout data for the 43 matches Klaassen played for Werder Bremen in season 19/20 & 20/21, he has:

  • 86% probability that he is able to contribute to the Werder Bremen overall,
  • 5% probability that he is able to contribute to the attack of Werder Bremen,
  • 97% probability that he is able to contribute to the defense of Werder Bremen,
  • 83% probability that he is able to contribute to the build up and transitioning of Werder Bremen.

Based on the Wyscout data for the 19/20 season Werder Bremen as a team had:

  • 31% probability that the team will win or draw a match,
  • 30% probability that the attack will score,
  • 43% probability that the defense will concede a goal (lower is better),
  • 44% probability that the build up and transitioning will create an opportunity.

Based on the Wyscout data for the 19/20 season the Bundesliga has a FBM League Strength score of 123 points. (91% correlation)

Based on the Wyscout data for the 19/20 season the Eredivisie has a FBM League Strength score of 114 points. (91% correlation)

Based on the Wyscout data for the 19/20 season Ajax has:

  • 87% probability that the team will win or draw a match,
  • 69% probability that the attack will score,
  • 28% probability that the defense will concede a goal (lower is better),
  • 53% probability that the build up and transitioning will create an opportunity.

Given that the League Strength of the Eredivisie is lower and that the club probabilities of Ajax are higher, it is a realistic idea to see Klaassen play for Ajax.

Based on the above data including minutes played, difference in league strength and difference in team strength, we calculate the following probabilities for Klaassen playing for Ajax.

  • 94% probability that he is able to contribute to Ajax overall,
  • 12% probability that he is able to contribute to the attack of Ajax,
  • 99% probability that he is able to contribute to the defense of Ajax,
  • 92% probability that he is able to contribute to the build up and transitioning of Ajax.

As you can see the performance of Klaassen will be very similar for Ajax as it was in the 19/20 season for Werder Bremen.

If we were to substitute Van de Beek for Klaassen Ajax would get the following probabilities:

  • 92% probability that the team will win a match (+6%),
  • 70% probability that the attack will score (+1%),
  • 26% probability that the defense will concede a goal (lower is better) (-2%),
  • 53% probability that the build up and transitioning will create an opportunity (+0%).

This would result in 5 additional points in the table.

To conclude: Ajax is slightly better off with Klaassen.

Shadow team born this century anonymized

To track how we are doing in finding talent at a relative early age (20 years or younger), we publish our shadow team anonymized and keep track of how these players are doing. As soon as any of these players transfer to another club or become a household name, we update this list and reveal the name. Or if they turn 25 in case the did not break through. Valuation at date is the price where would virtually buy the player. That way we can see how much profit would make virtually.

We paper trade the players as if we bought them for the valuation at data. The we sell the players when they reach the age of 25 or when the make a major transfer. That way you can see how well we do.

So far we have spent 88.875.000 euro and earned 56.000.000 euro for a loss of -32.875.000 euro. From 2022 on,players need to be born 2002 or later.

Of the 184 teenagers on the list 116 have increased in valuation (63%), 12 have decreased in valuation (6.5%) and 56 have no change in valuation mainly due to still being too young. (30.5%)

PlayedIDDate first in shadow teamValuation at dateTransfer/Currently valuedPositionFBM scoreBorn/playerContract/SoldTransfered
563929-5-20190.20.5AM5.9520002022
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823021-10-201933LB5.9720002024
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88152018-01-11 00:00:000.39RW920012024
902222-4-201908LB620032025
902313-1-202000.3LB720022023
902427-9-20210.20.3DM620022024
90252019-07-09 00:00:0002CM5.520032022
97772019-08-06 00:00:000.050.3RB820012022
98502020-10-12 00:00:000.11RW6.820002022
98632020-10-12 00:00:000.30.8RB7.620002024
1009328-5-20192.55CB7.420002024
103402018-12-12 00:00:0000.5RW820002021
1035219-8-202006LB6.2520012024
109572019-01-08 00:00:000.40.3AM7.1720002022
110462020-05-03 00:00:000.40.5DM6.8820002022
1112017-8-201900.2CM820012022
1112127-1-202000.5CM6.1320012021
1125817-9-20190.050.2CB6.052002unknown
1127024-12-202021.5CB6.320022021
115132020-07-03 00:00:001.13.3RB7.0620002026
1165720-12-20190.10.5CB6.4720002023
1173230-10-20192.7530 million transferAM7.22Odilon Kossounou30M30
118412019-04-12 00:00:0008LB7.4220012024
1206325-1-20200.10.4CM7.7620002021
120942020-12-09 00:00:000.050.6CM7.1120002022
121032020-03-03 00:00:000.0252CB7.3120002022
122302020-05-06 00:00:003.53.6CF8.220022023
1228918-5-202010.8CF5.9920022021
1234326-7-20202.33AM620012025
1241422-6-20200.81RW5.620012021
125252021-06-04 00:00:0011.2CF620022025
1261415-7-202000.5CB6.1620022023
126652020-02-07 00:00:000.410DM7.520012024
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128692020-05-08 00:00:0001AM720002022
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129022020-10-08 00:00:000.10.2LW6.62003unknown
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129102020-11-08 00:00:000.250.5CM8.220012022
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135492021-03-01 00:00:001.81.2AM620022024
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1509128-4-202200DM720062024
151192022-07-05 00:00:0000CM620042024
151202022-08-05 00:00:000.50.5CB5.520032023
151212022-09-05 00:00:000.70.7AM62003Unknown
151222022-10-05 00:00:0011CB620052024
151232022-10-05 00:00:0022CM6.520052024
151242022-11-05 00:00:000.20.2CB720022026
148122022-11-05 00:00:0022DM620022024
151252022-12-05 00:00:0000CM5.520042023
1512614-5-20220.20.2CB720042024
1512715-5-202200LB620052024
1512815-5-202222CF720032025
1512915-5-202200AM720052023
1258316-5-20220.90.9RW620022023
1513121-5-202200CF620062024
1513222-5-202200CB620042024
1513323-5-202222AM720052025

Current value is public valuation of the player by TransferMarkt in million euro. FBM score is our propietary score to rank players. Only players who score 5.5 or higher make it to the list. Players in the right age group who get at any time a FBM score of 5.5 or higher are automatically added to the list. PlayerID is the ID of the player in our FBM database.

Relative strength MLS

Here is the list of the relative strength of teams in the MLS based on their performance in the previous season according to Wyscout data. If it were a simple competition than this would also be our prediction for the league table. Previously predictions like these have had a 80% correlation with the actual league table a year later. So will see how it goes for the MLS:

RankFBM Wyscout score
1Atlanta73
2Los Angeles72
3Salt Lake71
4Toronto70
5Dallas67
6New York City65
7Columbus63
8Seattle62
9Portland61
10Chigago57
11Minnesota56
12San Jose56
13Colorado54
14New England54
15LA Galaxy52
16Montreal51
17Philadelphia50
18Kansas City48
19DC45
20Orlando42
21New York RB40
22Houston37
23Vancouver36
24Nashville35
25Cincinnati30
26Miami19

Showcase: Niklas Dorsch

Niklas Dorsch is a defensive midfielder of Heidenheim, playing in 2. Bundesliga. Dorsch has been on our radar for the last couple of years and with only one year left at Heidenheim, he is an interesting player to follow. He plays for Germany U21. We think he would do well in 1. Bundesliga. For that reason we show here that he would be a good addition to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Dorsch at Heidenheim

Here is Dorsch’ most recent FBM contribution chart:

Although Heidenheim lost and Dorsch did not play his best match, especially in the first half as can be seen from his contribution chart, he is still an exceptional player according to his FBM stats:

Yet, these are his stats for playing in the 2. Bundesliga. How would he do at Eintracht Frankfurt? We think that Dorsch is a good replacement for Hasebe at Eintracht Frankfurt. Hasebe’s most recent contribution chart shows he is not playing well at the moment:

Also his FBM stats are less than those of Dorsch:

Dorsch is slightly better than Hasebe at their highest performance, but Dorsch beats Hasebe on average performance, current performance and worst performance. Yet, Hasebe plays on a higher level. So we have to take that into account.

Dorsch playing for Eintracht Frankfurt

Taking into account minutes played, difference between both clubs and both competitions, we get the following results for Dorsch playing at Eintracht Frankfurt:

What you see in the first row, is the performance level of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1. Bundesliga. In the second row we subtract Hasebe’s contribution to the performance of Eintracht Frankfurt. That is only a small difference because Hasebe is not contributing that much on average. In the third row we add Dorsch to the expected performance of Eintracht Frankfurt. Finally, we can see how Eintracht Frankfurt’s performance would increase or decrease in row 4. Overall performance of Eintracht Frankfurt would rise as would attack and transitioning. Defensive performance would suffer slightly.

Eintracht Frankfurt’s FBM Team Score would increase to 115 points up from 102 points. There is an 80% correlation between FBM Team Score and future ranking in the league. If other teams would not improve Eintracht Frankfurt would rise to rank 10 in the league table if they played with Dorsch rather than Hasebe.

What is Dorsch worth?

Our model takes into account, position, highest transfer fee in the current season, record transfer fee, difference in competition, club, player age and length, international status and FBM stats. Due to the Corona crisis, it is much more uncertain how future transfer fees will develop. Our model is still based on the pre-Corona circumstances. 

When we calculate what we call the replacement fee for players. This is the amount of money the current employer of the player can expect to spend on a replacement who is as good as their current player. In short: clubs should not transfer players for less than the replacement fee, nor buy players for more than the replacement fee. As the replacement fee differs from club to club, there is room for negotiations. We also calculate what the player would be worth one year later if he is able to transfer to an even better club. All assuming his FBM stats remain the same.

Here are the replacement values for Dorsch:

Replacement value for Heidenheim£2,592,419
Replacement value for Eintracht Frankfurt£3,861,435
Replacement value for Schalke 04£6,672,353

TransferMarkt currently values Dorsch at £4.05m. We think that Dorsch is slightly overvalued on TransferMarkt. If Eintracht Frankfurt were able to buy Dorsch for less than £3,861,435, they would have a good deal. A deal that might make them almost £2m a year later, if they would transfer Dorsch to the next club and Dorsch would perform at the level we expect him to do. As a reminder, we predicted that Dalmau would be worth 1.75m euro to Heracles and they transferred him a year later for 1.7m euro.

For us the most important thing about FBM stats, is that we calculate the probabilities that a player is able to contribute to a specific team. Here are the probabilities that Dorsch is able to contribute to Eintracht Frankfurt:

Probability that Dorsch contributes to Frankfurt63
Probability that Dorsch contributes to the attack of Frankfurt72
Probability that Dorsch contributes to the defense of Frankfurt25
Probability that Dorsch contributes to the transitioning & build up of Frankfurt46