As a Liverpool supporter, the only infidelity I allow myself is my admiration for Messi. The fact that they are both mentioned in the latest article in the FT on innovation (another favourite subject) in football is a triple delight!
Sports have been using data and data analytics to improve performance and revenues for a while. Just take Formula One racing for example where the action on the tracks is actually a fraction of where the real event happens: in the silent video backrooms of the teams.
Football is far from this extreme and there is still much human magic in seeing Messi appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the opponents' defence.
But it is interesting to see clubs starting to use a more systematic approach on data gathering and analytics and exploring opportunities to improve tactics, optimise players' physical conditions and build high performing stadium.
This is fascinating as well as providing possible further use than just for the first male team, even outside of football.
But, even if the story of Robot Pol is heart warming for sure, will all this innovation eventually kill the magic of the beautiful game? Will it give an unfair advantage to the richest clubs who can invest in innovation hubs or teams of PhD mathematicians?
We are still far away from football being ruled by AI and data by all accounts but developments are to be closely followed.
Marta Plana, the board member who oversees the hub, talks about Barça becoming “the Silicon Valley of sport”