FC Copenhagen – recruitment analysis
To be the most decorated club in Denmark, a lot of things have to be done right. FC Copenhagen (FCK) are leaders in football revolution since their 1992 establishment. They became one of the first clubs to feature on the stock market in 1997, they attracted current Crystal Palace coach Roy Hodgson to be their manager in 2000, and they have won 12 league titles over the last 20 years. These are just a couple of examples of a club with great leadership and a winning mentality.
However, in the last couple of years, Danish football is going through a flourishing era with great teams emerging behind FC Copenhagen. To stay on top, the staff and the players need to work even harder otherwise the likes of Midtjylland or Nordsjaelland can take over in the future. In this recruitment analysis, we focus on the last five years in FC Copenhagen in terms of transfers and recruitment process, and we are going to analyse what the future holds for the current squad.
We could define FC Copenhagen with the word ‘consistency’. Not only in their steady performance but also the managerial presence itself is something unusual compared to other elite European clubs. Stale Solbakken has been leading his former team for over seven years. In his first spell from 2005 to 2011, he won five titles and he added three more since his return. The 13 season-experience can give him such an advantage in the squad building process that many coaches could only dream of.
The domestic results brought European football to the Danish capital year by year. However, fans are waiting for the real breakthrough to support their team in the Champions League again as 2016/17 was the last season when FC Copenhagen reached the group stage.
In these five years, it is hard to find another club which expanded and actively used their scouting network this much. When we analyse clubs from Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, we can usually notice preference towards the Scandinavian market but in the case of FC Copenhagen, the picture is more widespread. Improving the scouting range was a bold choice but worked out well.
The transfer data also shows the clever roster-building process. The club managed to secure players close to or at the end of their contracts often. It should tell a lot that Pep Biel became the club’s most expensive signing with 5 million euros last summer. In today’s football, this amount is well within the European average transfer fee. Especially if the overall transfer balance is taken into account. Over five seasons, the board reached 27 million euros of profit, which is remarkable in the Danish Superliga.
They go slightly against the Danish trend of bringing players through the academies as only eight youth players joined the first team since 2015. While this figure stands at 22 for Midtjylland and 25 for Nordsjaelland, FC Copenhagen still developed their most valuable and promising youngsters within the club. Mohammed Daramy and Jonas Wind could be the next to step up into a greater challenge.
Current squad overview
At the beginning of the current campaign, everything was set to challenge for the title. A balanced squad with great, young attacking power, an experienced backline, and new signings eager to get onto the pitch. 26 rounds into the season and FC Copenhagen lag nine points behind Midtjylland which might be a tough pill to swallow for the supporters. The 29 conceded goals and the heavy 4-1 defeat against the current leaders derailed the team but didn’t set back the process.
On the contract chart, we can see the main reason to remain optimistic about the future: 10 out of the current 21 squad members arrived in 2019. This is an incredible number of turnover and considering the lockdown, building cohesion didn’t get easier. However, the club is now stacked with young playmakers who could mean the difference already in the next season. Only two players will run out of contract, the veteran striker Dame N’Doye and the 33-year-old centre-back, Ragnar Sigurdsson. Their replacements have already arrived in the forms of Mikkel Kaufmann and Victor Nelsson.
The squad position analysis reveals that FC Copenhagen have comfortable depth in almost every position. Solbakken has built a compact and exciting squad with a 4-4-2 formation. Having at least two players per positions means that the team could be durable for a long title run. As it was mentioned before, the defence (including the goalkeepers) is an experienced unit with an average age of 28.4 (32.7 between the posts). The midfielders are mostly in their primes at 26.4 while the forwards with their 24.4 average can be misleading since N’Doye is 35 and will probably leave the club next season.
In need of a backup CB
As for the future, FC Copenhagen will have to continue replacing young talents in the squad for a considerable amount of profit. While the transfer rumours haven’t started yet, the club may target another experienced centre-back to pair with Nelsson.
The current contract has to expire at maximum in the summer of 2021 according to Transfermarkt and the player value must be above 500 thousand euros. Besides these, if the player received 600 minutes on the pitch and is under 30, he was featured in our list. The following countries and leagues were taken into account:
- England (Championship, League One)
- Germany (2.Bundesliga)
The previously mentioned filters helped us to narrow down the initial dataset to 130 names. Players with different roles appear on different parts of the chart and they could be distinguished in a blink of an eye. The size of their dots indicates their relative defensive strength compared to their league’s average. Based on similarities to the current centre-back statistics in FC Copenhagen and following the past trends in their transfers, we created this shortlist of defenders who could realistically move to the Danish capital over the summer.
Sebastian Holmén (market value: €1.70m): The 28-year-old Swedish player arrived from Dinamo Moscow to Willem II. He immediately became a starter in the Dutch club and has played every single minute so far. While his contract will expire next year, he could be an option if FC Copenhagen were about to lose Sotirios Papagiannopoulos or Andreas Bjelland.
Ben Davies (market value: €2.40m): The Englishman climbed through the leagues and currently plays for Preston North End in the Championship. As he is 24, his club will aim to renew his contract in the future, however, the Danish giant could scoop him up for a relatively small transfer fee. He is more of the modern centre-back – he does his job higher up the field and contributes to the build-up heavily.
Josip Elez (market value: €1.20m): He is a two-time Croatian international, currently in Hannover. His statistics show great value in ball progression, he constantly manages to find his teammates in the final third which could translate well into the playing style of FC Copenhagen.
Leo Östigard (market value: €1.80m): An exciting Norwegian prospect. He spent the last season on loan at St. Pauli but will return at the end of the season to Brighton. While the 20-year-old might be an unrealistic target for Solbakken, a loan move would make sense considering his strong defensive performance in Germany.
Shaun Hutchinson (market value: €725 thousand): Hutchinson is the first player in our shortlist with an expiring contract. Despite playing as a centre-back, he netted five goals and handed out two assists in 2019/20. Moreover, he was a force to reckon with in the defensive line, therefore he could be one of those smart picks when searching for a reliable defender. On the negative side, he is 29 years old and maybe he would prefer to stay in England.
Nemanja Milunovic (market value: €1.70m): The Serbian giant joined Red Star Beograd last season but despite his age, he still holds value for anyone searching for reliable centre-backs in the Eastern market. Even more interestingly, his attacking statistics speak for themselves as he is undoubtedly the most offensive back in Serbia.
Ryan Tafazolli (market value: €600 thousand): The Iranian-English defender couldn’t establish himself as a striker in Hull City after joining them over the summer. During his limited playing time, he racked up a strong 0.07 expected assists (xA) figure.
Sonny Bradley (market value €950 thousand): From League One, Bradley could be a viable option although only as a backup. The Hull City-grown centre-back enjoyed 31 games as a starter this season.
Darryl Lachman (market value: €550 thousand): The Dutch journeyman moved to Israel during the winter but his contract expires over the summer. During his autumn in PEC Zwolle, he was one of the best defenders when it came to progressive passes.
In this recruitment analysis, we focused on how FC Copenhagen built their squad to last in a five-year span. One of the key elements to their success is their open-minded business and their ability to form and adapt to the Danish football culture. The central figure in this process is Stale Solbakken who heroically overcame an on-field heart attack and went on to the most successful coach in Denmark.
Their dense scouting network helped to bring promising and talented players from all over the world which, combined with their academy, could bring Champions League football back to Copenhagen. As this season was the first for many new signings, the real test comes in 2021 when they will have to challenge Midtjylland for the title while holding every other aspiring team behind.
Finally, we talked about the squad depth and which position is the most likely to be targeted during the next window. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a move for an experienced centre-back keeping the budget tight. A shortlist of nine players could help to understand the recruitment process at the club and give an overall idea of what to expect in the future.