Today, when Luis Palma went off, the commentator said something about his having nine assists for the season. I had known it was a good number but not as high as that.
When combined with his seven goals, that’s 16 contributions from him which have led to the ball going into the back of the net. He’s been at Celtic just a few months. He’s an exciting talent.
The guy he’s replacing in the Celtic side is, of course, Jota. We paid big money for Jota and we got big money back. But the question that intrigues me now is can Luis Palma prove to be our “Moneyball” player, doing in the team what Jota did but without the fanfare?
Jota is a better footballer than Palma. I think most of us would say that.
But does that necessarily mean that he will end up being as effective? Well, he was pretty damned effective if I’m being honest, and the numbers bear that out.
In his first season at Celtic, encompassing 40 matches, he scored 13 and set up another 14, for 27 goals in which he had a hand. In his second season, in 43 games, he scored 15 and set up another 12, for another 27 goal contributions.
It’s good, but Palma has his 16 in only 20 games … he’s ahead on the averages already, and if the second half of the season goes this well, he’s on course for more than 30 goals contributed to the team.
And that’s what the concept of Moneyball was all about.
You lose your big players and you know you can’t spend the kind of money on them that it would require to buy that same quality, so you try to “recreate them in the aggregate.”
You look for guys with big numbers and you sign them and hope that they can do for you what they’ve done elsewhere.
When Palma was being targeted by the Ibrox club, I looked at his stats and they made me very nervous for that exact reason.
Let me repeat; he is not as good as Jota, but it might well be that over the course of this campaign, he achieves Jota style numbers and perhaps even better … and that is interesting and exciting and should give pause to anyone who thinks we’ve got an inferior player here and wants to complain bitterly about it.
It might not necessarily matter whether he has Jota’s flare or ability to light up a match.
This guy might deliver where it really matters, in the hard numbers, the ones that contribute to league tables and title wins far more than natural flair does.
This is not a defence of the strategy. We all know its limitations and that it does not deliver for the needs of the manager as much as it might. But it doesn’t get everything wrong and there are times, in fact, when it gets things very, very right and this might well be one of those times.
We might not have a superior footballer, but we might have one who can deliver the goods just the same, and that over the course of a campaign is what matters.
We already know that he does.
Can he reach the magic numbers that Jota did?
I absolutely believe that he can, and that he will.