x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Revenge of the nerds

Liverpool supporters and maths geeks alike have reason to celebrate John Henry, even if he lets Fernando Torres go to Chelsea.

Liverpool fans may still be wary that they replaced one American owner, Tom Hicks, with another, John Henry, last autumn. But the Reds might have a new source of support: nerds. After all, the new owner has already shown the power of intellect on the pitch.

Looking through thick spectacles at trends and statistics that most ignored, Mr Henry made a fortune in commodities markets. He then took his methods - and his millions - to the ballpark, buying the fabled Boston Red Sox.

He showed that the owner's box isn't such an odd place for a mathematician. Instead of signing those who hit the most home runs, Mr Henry studied how many times they made it to first base. Instead of signing players the New York Yankees sought, he used algorithms to discover which players were most undervalued.

So the Spanish footballing superstar Fernando Torres doesn't want to be at Anfield? Mr Henry may let him walk - as long as he can afford a couple of under-appreciated players with the money he saves. It was this approach that allowed Mr Henry to do in four years what previous owners of the Red Sox couldn't do in eight decades: win a championship.

Who knows what Mr Henry is looking for on the soccer pitch. You can be sure, however, that he and his crew of maths nerds are in some laboratory trying to build a winner. Perhaps geeks will inherit the earth, or at least, win a Barclays Premier League title.