Did you know that fantasy sports games can help us predict who the future football stars will be? This is precisely what happened in Riyad Mahrez's case, PFA Player of the Year, who has conquered the Premier League with Leicester City this season.
During last November's Big Data Week Conference in London, using statistics from the Oulala database I correctly foresaw that the Leicester midfielder would be the player to keep an eye on. ''I'll give you a prediction for this season: there is a footballer, named (Riyad) Mahrez. According to our game, he is at the moment the best midfielder in Europe, not just in England. I bet that at the end of the season his value will be huge.''
How is it possible that I gave such an accurate prediction? The answer to this question is the power of big data and information, which is collected during football matches. This means that the actions occurring on the field are converted into numbers through the use of mathematics and computing power.
Oulala.com, which is known for its sophisticated mathematical matrix, has a system which includes 70 different criteria dependent on a player's position (keeper, defender, midfielder, striker), resulting in a total of 275 ways to gain or lose points. These range from the usual goals and assists to the more detailed shots on target and successful tackles, amongst many others, making it as close to football reality as possible.
Despite the fact that there were six players in total to win the award for the PFA Player of the Year (Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Dimitri Payet and Mesut Ozil), it wasn't hard to guess who the winner would be: according to Oulala, Mahrez has been the best Premier league player so far with 1118 overall points in 35 appearances, and the sixth best player in Europe only behind Lionel Messi (1635), Neymar (1454), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1418), Luis Suarez (1254) and Cristiano Ronaldo (1172). In the Premier League, the 25-year-old Algerian is followed by teammate Jamie Vardy who has collected 940 points in 34 matches.
The player who attracted lots of attention last season was Kevin de Bruyne, who at the time was playing for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. It's true that after three or four months after the beginning of the season we usually start seeing unknown players from small teams that start over performing in our game. They have more points than they should. Usually at the end of the season these players are bought by big clubs.
For example De Bruyne, the Footballer of the Year 2015 in Germany, was later signed by Manchester City for a transfer fee of £58 million (€74 million).
What about Mahrez, who has just won the Premier League with the Foxes? Will he earn himself a move to a ''bigger'' club? Despite the fact that his current contract with LCFC will keep him in the club until June 2019 there is no doubt that after his performances this season there will be numerous suitors making big money offers this summer.