That’s how you’re gonna beat em, Craig. They keep underestimating you.
In my mind, Craig Bellamy’s career has been very cyclical. It seems that he is being repeatedly underappreciated when playing for larger clubs. After signing for Coventry in the summer of 2000, his career has panned out something like this:
1. Performs well at a “small” club (one that is neither in the Champions League nor has realistic Champions League intentions) thus attracting the attention of bigger clubs.
2. Signs for a “big” club (one that is either in the Champions League or that has realistic Champions League intentions).
3. Despite performing well at the “big” club, he is deemed surplus to requirements.
4. Is sold to a “small” club.
5. Repeat from stage 1.
The “small” teams being Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Cardiff City.
The “big” teams are Newcastle United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Liverpool again.
Is this accurate or am I a victim of my brain’s eagerness to look for oversimplified patterns?
I have charted the positions that Bellamy’s clubs have finished over the years. “Big” and “small” clubs are coloured red and blue respectively. A faded dot shows that Bellamy played for that club for only half a season or, in the case of Liverpool’s 2011-12, that the season is incomplete and his team’s position at the time of writing is used. At the bottom of the graphic, I’ve tagged on Bellamy’s transfer value and season goal tallies (all competitions) over the years so see if these can add anything interesting. As far as I can see, they don’t.
Returning to league positions; is the hypothesised cyclical storyline a reality? Sort of. The red dots are generally higher than the blue dots. The pattern is let down by several of the teams not conforming to the big/small labels I’ve placed on them, notably “small” West Ham finishing above “big” Man City in 2008/09.
What this can’t answer is if the cycle is caused by being underestimated by big clubs when he is in their employ or by being overestimated when he isn’t. Alternatively, it could be his propensity for belligerence that results in him being moved on so regularly.
What next for Bellamy? How many more revolutions of the cycle will he fit in to his career – after Liverpool inevitably decide he’s not for them for a second time – and where will it take him? QPR, Man Utd, Leicester and Barcelona, perhaps.
Notes on transfer value and goals:
i. His value is assumed to have changed uniformly between transfers.
ii. Values have not been adjusted for inflation.
iii. His current value, following his signing for Liverpool on a free, is not known.
iv. I have extrapolated the 6 goals he has scored so far for Liverpool in 2011/12 to an expected 10 goals for the season as a whole.