So WAS Pele better than Ronaldo? Messi better than Maradona? Meet the football data company that’s revolutionising the market… and helping eagle-eyed managers spot stars of the future like Erling Haaland
- Sofascore was founded in 2010 and has grown into an industry leader
- They provide a live player ratings service which is used across football
- Real star Luka Modric has signed up as a global ambassador of the company
- Their data has been used by managers and players from all parts of the game
One of the oldest debates in football could be edging closer to being settled thanks to a Croatian-based data company that is making significant waves in the industry.
Sofascore, founded by Zlatko Hrkac and Ivan Beslic just over a decade ago, has developed a new product that will allow fans to come up with a more definitive answer to a question long posed by pundits and fans alike: Are the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo better than greats such as Pele and Diego Maradona?
Using the organisation’s famed ratings system, which pulls together around 2,000 statistics to give a player a mark out of 10, fans will be able to directly compare legends of the past and present in a new feature that Hrkac and Beslic plan to launch with a month to go until the World Cup in Qatar.
‘It means you can check your current team’s performance with the team that was playing in 1966, for example,’ Hrkac says.
Sofascore was founded by Ivan Beslic (left) and Zlatko Hrkac back in 2012, and the company has grown into an industry leader
‘It will be a very popular feature in Sofascore because you don’t have any historical data from these players at the moment. All you can do is watch old matches, but with the ratings fans will be able to compare Pele, Messi, Ronaldo…’
Beslic adds: ‘We were a little bit afraid because football is changing and our algorithm is the same for past matches and current matches, and we did not know if our app would be good for that.
‘But when it pulled together the historical data, we saw all the famous players from the past are still great when you combine them with the current top players.’
It is not only fans that have made use of the live ratings system, the jewel in the crown of the Sofascore portfolio which also includes a results service and mobile app.
Sofascore’s statistics showed the likes of Erling Haaland would become a star several years ago
Such is the level of its popularity that managers have been known to use it to scout players and identify talent in leagues across the world, or to decide whether they should drop a player in favour of another.
Hrkac gives the example of Erling Haaland. He says Sofascore’s analytics could tell from an early stage that the Norwegian would enjoy a rapid rise to global stardom – and so it has proved, through his goalscoring antics for Borussia Dortmund and now Manchester City.
‘Now everyone is talking about Haaland, but we saw this guy maybe three or four years ago that he was getting good ratings,’ Hrkac said.
Haaland, unsurprisingly, received a rating of 10 on Sofascore after City’s 6-3 thumping of Manchester United on Sunday. He has an average of 8.2 for the season so far.
Sofascore’s co-owners can list a host of current players in their 22 million monthly users. Beslic jokes that they sometimes receive calls from footballers who are unhappy with their rating after a match, asking why they scored less than a rival or an opponent.
Their algorithm for their ratings, which were only launched five years ago, combines every piece of data they have from a match – – such as goals, passes, shots and cards – into one, definitive number, according to Hrkac.
‘For each statistic, you need to decide the weight of each to form the number,’ he says. ‘We don’t share that algorithm with anyone.’
Beslic has promised further advancements to the algorithm in the future. ‘We are constantly changing the algorithm and adapting it to the game, as football is not the same as even six years ago,’ he adds. ‘We have to update it and we are doing that all the time.’
Working on that metric is just one of the areas where Sofascore is expanding. The company is also looking to add mixed martial arts, cricket and golf to the 23 sports they cover, while enhancing the range of stats at their disposal ahead of the World Cup and increasing the number of leagues which feature on their website and app.
‘If you have a club on our street, and you have the results on Whatsapp or Facebook pages, we created a product where you can add results and all info immediately on Sofascore, which is good for the clubs,’ Beslic adds. ‘The next big goal is to add all football matches in the world.’
Croatia and Real Madrid star Luka Modric is the first brand ambassador for Sofascore
Sofascore executives described Modric as a ‘perfect fit’ to align with their new identity
Modric is from Croatia, where Beslic and Hrkac are from and established the company
Sofascore, whose website is available in 40 different languages, are also targeting having regional offices on every continent in the world. Hubs have already been opened in Argentina and Uruguay, while plans are afoot for similar offices in Brazil and Italy.
The company has developed from moving from a ‘small flat to a big flat’ in 2013, in Beslic’s words, to having close to 200 employees working on their increasingly-extensive range. ‘Before, we wanted space for around 20 employees – now we are nearly 10 times that amount,’ he says.
They recently signed Real Madrid and Croatia star Luka Modric as their first brand ambassador and are even looking at creating their own award ceremony to recognise the players with the best ratings – the Ballon d’Or of stats, if you will.
Modric helped launched Sofascore’s new brand in his role as an ambassador of the company
The 37-year-old five-time Champions League winner was described as a ‘perfect fit’ for Sofascore
It is a remarkable rise from where they first started. The company itself began life as an IT firm, before the Croatian duo saw an opportunity to provide a service which is now in the hands of a growing number of fans, players and managers across the globe.
‘We started this as a hobby,’ Hrkac says. ‘It has been a long journey as we started without any money, investment or a big team. It has all been slow, continuous growing.
‘It is not easy to build that product from scratch.’
The co-owners pictured posing in the style of the new Sofascore logo, launched ahead of the World Cup
But it is easy to see why Modric would want to get involved, and why Hrkac and Beslic thought he was the best person for the job.
‘We knew that he will have a new logo before the World Cup and we wanted to put that on steroids by adding a football person to this story,’ says Beslic. ‘We started thinking who is best for Sofascore, and that is Modric.
‘He is also from Croatia, we started from the street and he started as a young kid who had to leave his house because of the war. He is a great personality. If you look on the internet, you don’t have any detail where he is arguing with someone – he is just polite and hard-working, values which we also have.’
The 37-year-old, a five-time Champions League winner, joining as an ambassador was the focal point of a new identity for Sofascore, which also featured a new logo.
Sofascore dropped the sofa from their emblem as part of a refresh to make it more ‘clean and modern’.
‘It is hard when you have users that get used to something, and you do need to be careful,’ Hrkac reflects. ‘But we we just wanted to give time to users to get used to what we were doing and include them in our decisions.
‘We want to give them what they are looking for. Next year Sofascore will look completely different – but better.
‘The future is big for the sofascore brand.’
Given the trajectory of the company so far, it is impossible to disagree.
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