Over the past few seasons I’ve posted data from the top European football leagues to consider clubs punching above their financial weight. Previously, standout examples were Sheffield United (Premier League) and Atalanta (Serie A); both clubs were over-performing relative to their salary budgets.
Girona must be the winner of the ‘Moneyball award’ this season. The Spanish club are 11th out of 20 when it comes to estimated total annual salary (gross) spend. Girona's annual budget is estimated to be ~€26m. They are a small club - with a 14,000 seater stadium and a local population of about 100,000 people. After 22 matches this season, they have earned 2.5 points per match. Real Madrid, who have a slightly higher points per match statistic of 2.57, have the highest budget in the league - an annual spend of circa €290m.
The chart below shows the estimates of annual salary budgets for La Liga.
Regardless of the reasons for their success, relative to the competition, Girona are winning matches at a discount. The chart below plots the relationship between points per match and the gross average annual salary of the La Liga clubs (log scale). We season a typical relationship – the more spent on salary, the higher a club's PPM – but, of course, Girona stand out.
Although Girona are first and ahead of Real Madrid having played an extra match, the markets still have Girona priced at 5/1 second favourites to win La Liga (Real Madrid are hot favourites at 1/7). A Moneyball strategy and lifting trophies rarely go hand in hand. The bookmakers are still backing Goliath.