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The measurement has to be simple so that I can do it for a large number of footballers without having access to special information, so I decided to do something very simple:

for each player, calculate each season:
number of league games (or minutes) played
multiplied by
(number of teams - league position at the end of the season)

My reasoning is that the better a player is relative to his team-mates, the more minutes he will play. The better the players, the better the team, and the higher it will be in the league tables. If a player improves, he will play more and in better teams; if a player declines, he will either play less or in worse teams or both.

So in principle with this measure I should be able to determine performance as a function of age (for example) to determine when a player has peaked. Although there are a number of problems with it (injury, moving leagues, all team-mates suck etc.). Ideally there should be a conversion factor from one league to another so I can include players who have played in different countries. (Edit: Perhaps relative league position would solve this problem.)

What do you think? Is it a good measurement or should I do something different? I'm asking because I don't want to do the work and then realise that I should have done something different. Thanks.
2. yea i think that would be really interesting, but its really all down to individual differences at the end of the day. But then if you do find some interesting, significant results would these become deterministic for footballers who reach that certain age?
3. Nah. But I think it would be interesting, for example to see if there are different types of peaks (e.g. pretty sure defenders and forwards would be different), or if footballers that came through the same academy or trained for a long time at the same club are more similar to each other, and things like that. But to see things like that you'd need really big sample size.
4. How are you dong the modelling? Some kind of simple statistical regression? In my opinion, you need something that correlates better with the individual's talent. I'd suggest some football websites where fans can vote players out of 10 every game. Find the average rating of a player per season and run a regression with age and age^2 in the regression and your dependent variable being this rating measure. This'll hopefully give you your curve you want.
5. are u serious? lol

there is no magic equation. some players peak young (fabregas, messi, torres, owen), some peak late (pirlo, rvp) and some have no peak (zidane)

honestly don't waste ur time, age does not determine ability
6. Owen - 18

Everybody else - 23-30.

Goalkeepers are usually later (Reina and Cech aren't following this though I think), some players are supposed to peak later but really it's probably just media hype. Parker a couple of years ago is an example.

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Updated: April 16, 2013
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