From Brad Pitt's Oscar role to AZ Alkmaar: 'Moneyball' goes Dutch

    Story highlights

    • Baseball's Billy Beane to join top-tier Dutch club as executive
    • Smaller clubs seeking advantage over big -pending giants

    (CNN)Brace yourself Europe -- "Moneyball" is coming to a football pitch near you.

    Spend-thrift baseball executive Billy Beane -- made famous by Brad Pitt's Oscar-nominated portrayal in "Moneyball" -- is taking up a position with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar.
      "I'm truly excited for the opportunity to be part of AZ Alkmaar in an advisory role," Beane told the AZ website.
      "Despite being a great football club with a storied history, they face many of the challenges we have with the Oakland A's. My love for football and AZ's vision of the future of the club made this an attractive pursuit."
      The idea behind "Moneyball" is to obtain maximum value for each player bought or sold.
      Beane has had a longstanding fascination with European football, citing Arsenal's Arsene Wenger as a manager he admires for his blend of performance on the pitch and financial prudence.
      The American has said in the past that it was his dream to be an executive at a football club once his baseball career ended. It turns out he didn't have to wait that long.
      "I think it's interesting and exciting for him personally," said Chris Anderson, co-founder of the sports analytics consultancy Anderson Sally.
      "He's been a football fan for many, many years and is very well informed about the sport and industry. This is not as much a stretch as one might imagine; he actually knows football."
      Beane will retain his general manager duties with the Oakland A's, a team that remains competitive despite sporting one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball (MLB).
      The A's have qualified for MLB's playoffs each of the past three seasons, only to be knocked out before the World Series every time.
      Critics of baseball's sabermetrics system -- using data to analyze the sport as exposed in Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" book which inspired the film -- are quick to point out that Beane has never won a title with the A's.
      In Holland, Beane won't need to start from scratch, as AZ currently sits comfortably in fourth place in the Dutch Eredivisie.
      AZ's director of football Earnie Stewart is a known "Moneyball" fan himself, having organized a screening for his fellow AZ execs shortly after joining the club.
      The former U.S. midfielder, who scored against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup, is half-Dutch and hopes the collaboration with Beane can give the club an extra edge.
      "We've had a lot of contact with Billy In the last few months", Stewart told the club's website.
      "His knowledge and ideas are impressive. Also Billy's soccer network is excellent. We have already noticed that Billy thinks two steps ahead in the area of innovation. That's what really connects with the ambitions of AZ."
      Like the A's, AZ have managed to compete with the big boys of the Dutch league -- chiefly PSV and Ajax -- on a limited budget, winning the domestic league twice -- most recently in 2009 -- while finishing in the top five in three of the past five seasons.
      Beane's philosophy is shaped by getting maximum bang for your buck in the transfer market.
      "There is a misconception that you never pay much for anybody, but that is not true at all," Beane told the Telegraph in 2011.
      "You want to make sure you are getting more value than you are paying. That may come in the form of a very expensive player, it may come in the form of a very young player, but it's not about being cheap or not spending money."
      But it's questionable whether "Moneyball" principles can be applied to football, a sport where -- unlike in U.S. sports leagues -- players are rarely traded for one another. Instead, athletes are sold for prices determined by a marketplace, untethered by salary caps.
      However, Anderson argues Beane could be about to exploit a gap in the market.
      "I would say unequivocally that markets for players are much more inefficient in soccer than in baseball," said Anderson, who also wrote "The Numbers Game: Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong."
      "The combination of a global market plus inefficiency means that is a huge opportunity in soccer that there isn't in the same way in baseball."
      Either way, Beane is likely to relish the challenge of imparting his knowledge to the boardrooms of European football, perhaps even as a pre-cursor to a full time job in the sport.
      "I think he certainly would be open to the possibility of taking on a role," said Anderson, adding that Beane could be using the advisory position to dip his toe into the shark-infested waters of football player transfers.
      "In football we're still in a pre-'Moneyball' era," added Anderson. "So the baseball equivalent of the mid-1990s. is the football equivalent of 2015."