UPDATE: May 1st, 2019
Borja Iglesias is once again being mentioned as getting ready for a move to the Premier League, with Everton as one of the possible destinations, from Spanish outlet Marca (via SportWitness).
Here’s what we’ve written about the player previously.
In January we relayed a report here at RBM that Espanyol striker Borja Iglesias was being pursued for a move by the club. The striker has now come out in an interview with Madrid paper AS to say he intends to stay with the Catalan club going forward. His release clause is reported to be at 28m euros.
As we told you in our article last month, Iglesias is having a career year at Espanyol at the age of (now) 26. He has ten goals and two assists this season in La Liga after never really seeing any top flight action besides a single cameo with Celta Vigo in 2014-2015.
I am normally extremely suspicious of players in their mid 20s who seem to appear out of nowhere, but I think this particular forward is the real deal. Unlike Sandro Ramirez, whose one season of glory turned him into a long standing albatross for Everton, Borja shows signs of sustainability.
For starters, the year Sandro scored 14 goals for Malaga he did it on only 7 xG. Expected goals are a funny thing - it is sometimes hard to tell when a person performs well above their xG whether they are just exceptionally better than average at finishing (Lionel Messi overshoots his xG numbers every year) or if he is just having one hot season of finishing before going back to normal (Sandro is a good example of this, Andrea Belotti at Torino is another).
By contrast, Borja Iglesias has 10 goals on 9.23 xG. He is well within the normal range in terms of relative production. A striker who consistently matches his xG number can generally be relied on to do so (Callum Wilson is a great example of this, Wilfried Zaha is another, and actually the last four years Cristiano Ronaldo has been in this category.)
Consistently hitting your xG projection is done in one of two ways. The first way is sheer volume, and Ronaldo (or Harry Kane) is the perfect example of this. When you take over 150 shots a season (in some seasons for Ronaldo it was well over 200) your xG number simply cannot help but build up. Messi does this as well, but he ends up over his xG every year because he is the most deadly direct free kick taker on earth, and so he gets a lot of value out of otherwise low xG chances.
If you are not a huge volume shooter, and Borja Iglesias is not, then you stick close to your xG by doing what Callum Wilson is an absolute master at doing, which is taking good shots. Well over 90% of Wilson’s shots are inside the penalty area, and it shows with the quality return he gets out of them (he has a better shot conversion percentage than Messi by about 3%).
While Borja is not as religious about taking his shots inside the box, he still shoots there about 70% of the time, and only one of his goals came from outside the box (as opposed to Sandro in his breakout year at Malaga, where the majority of his shots were outside the penalty area).
I do not know after only 2/3 of a season whether or not Borja Iglesias will continue to produce at a top flight level. What I do know is that his decision making lays a groundwork that is sustainable. He will probably never play for Everton, and that’s completely fine, but at 28m he would not be a terrible investment. He averages more key passes per 90 than Cenk Tosun does and as we’ve discussed before, if we are going to play Richarlison, we need a creative striker. But bottom line here is that not all one season breakouts in Spain are created equal. Borja Iglesias is no Sandro Ramirez.