Football Manager 2023 was released last week. The history of the popular simulation can now be traced back thirty year, and I fondly remember the earlier manifestation of the game - Championship Manager. Like many simulations, the accuracy of the measurement in the franchise has become increasingly accurate as time has gone on. There are strong incentives for the developers to get this right.
In a recently published paper in the International Journal of Sports Finance Dennis Coates and I used FM data to estimate the effect of specific player position on salary in Major League Soccer. Our data covers 1,174 salaries for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. We find that the that the ability measures in Football Manager do a good job in explaning a lot of the variation in salary.
Also, the exact positional measurement in the simulation allow us to drill down into positional premia/penalties. We confirm the common finding that goalkeepers are paid less. The general 'defensive' penalty is not however borne out. Rather, specific peripheral defensive and wing back positions incur the salary penalty - often these are utility players that cover many defensive positions. We found no penalty, for example, for players that operate as central defenders only.
Finally, the FM data also allow us to consider players that play in diverse positions. For example, Wayne Rooney - who could operate as defensive midfielder or forward. We find these generalists earn a premium.