The website footballperspectives.org has today published a paper written by three CIES Football Observatory researchers: Raffaele Poli, Roger Besson and Loïc Ravenel. It is available to download for free here.
footballperspectives.org brings together research - or experienced-based contributions - from academics studying the game and from people working within it on issues affecting football today.
Driven from data collected within the context of the latest Demographic Study, the CIES paper shows the impact of financial inequalities on squad make-up throughout Europe.
The authors notably report that “the proportion of full internationals drops from 46% for big-5 clubs to 15% for fourth echelon leagues”. At club level, during the first semester of the current season Manchester City FC has fielded 24 full internationals, the highest figure in Europe. Manchester City is also the team employing the highest number of players with international caps in 2012 (19).
These figures raise the issues of player hoarding and competitive balance in European football. This is a growing problem which will be addressed in the 2013 edition of the CIES Football Observatory Annual Review to be published next June - shortly after the end of the five major championships.
The full Demographic Study and other publications of the CIES Football Observatory may be purchased here.
The brand new Demographic Study of the CIES Football Observatory reveals that the expatriate presence has reached a new record high in Europe.
As Dr Raffaele Poli, head of the CIES Football Observatory, explains, “The percentage of players imported from abroad at European level has never been as high as in the current season. Of the top 31 division leagues of UEFA member associations we surveyed, 36.1% of all squad members grew up in a different national association to that of their employer club".
The new and fully illustrated report identifies that expatriate footballers represent more than one quarter of players in all positions, with a record high of 44.3% among forwards. Their percentage is above 50% in six championships out of the 31 surveyed (Cyprus, England, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Turkey). The level observed in the top Cypriot league is the highest ever recorded (74.2%).
Brazil remains by far the top exporting country. However, the overall number of Brazilians has fallen slightly during the last year, from 524 to 515. Conversely, expatriates from the second most represented origin, France, have significantly increased from 245 to 269. The highest increase overall was measured for Spanish (+34 to 148) and Portuguese players (+41 to 171).
During the last year, the highest growth was recorded in Bulgaria (+6.9%) and the Ukraine (+6.2%). At the opposite end of the table is Greece, where economic turmoil has provoked a fall in the rate of expatriates (-14.9%). The latter now represents less than one fifth of squad members only in three championships (Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia) out of the 31 reviewed.
The rise in the relative presence of expatriates goes hand in hand with the shrinking of club-trained footballers. Their percentage at European level reached a record low in the current season of 21.1%. Since 2009, the percentage of home-grown footballers diminished throughout the continent except in Central Europe. It is now lower than 10% in Portugal, Turkey and Italy.
The latest Football Observatory study also includes comprehensive club level data. For example, the Barcelona squad contains the smallest players (177.74 cm on average). In addition, the Catalan side is made up of the players who have been together for longest in the first team squad, with 5 years the average. Two other Champions League possible winners are among the most stable teams: Shakhtar Donetsk (4.4 years, 3rd position) and Manchester United FC (4.3 years, 7th).
To download an excerpt of the Study, click here
To buy the publication, click here
The CIES Football Observatory is pleased to announce that its online database has been updated. It now covers the last five completed seasons of the big-5 European leagues, from 2007 to 2012.
The database reveals the trends observed in each championship with regard to the following indicators: average age, average height, % of club-trained players, % of full internationals, % of expatriates and average stay.
All of our indicators may be refined according to league, club level, players’ age category, position and origin. To interactively consult the database, you are kindly invited to click here.
The CIES Football Observatory academic team is currently working on the fifth edition of the Demographic Study which will be launched next January (an excerpt of the last report may be downloaded here.
Our 2013 published analysis will include nearly 11,500 players at 478 clubs in 31 top division leagues of UEFA member associations. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com
For the third year running, the CIES Football Observatory has forecast the outcome of the five major European championships. A brand new model has been developed which includes four main criteria for league success: international activity of players, their league experience, squad stability and the quality of signings. This latter factor was not included in models used for the two previous seasons.
The combination of all these elements suggests that the following clubs have the best chances of finishing in the top three positions of the rankings. Clubs in bold have the highest probability of winning their respective league.
England Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal
Spain Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid
Germany Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04
Italy Juventus, Milan, Napoli
France Paris St-Germain, Lille, Olympique de Marseille
Our predictions also distinguish between clubs expected to finish in the top half of the league and teams expected to finish in the bottom part of the table. For both groups, we have identified a club per league with a high probability of performing better than expected, such as whether to finish in the top three (Chelsea, Valencia, Stuttgart, Inter Milan, and Olympique Lyonnais) or in the top half (West Bromwich, Getafe, Hamburger SV, Parma, and Lorient).
Week by week throughout the season, you will find on our website the updated comparison between the rank expected and actually achieved by all clubs as well as the average rank gap for each league. The best results last season were recorded in Italy and Germany (on average 3.2 ranks of difference between predictions and reality), while the worst was registered in Spain (4.3). The goal for this year is to have an average gap lower than 4 in all the leagues.
The complete predictions are available to download here.
The seventh edition of the CIES Football Observatory Annual Review is now available. This key reference publication unveils the logics of success in the five major European leagues using a novel and unique “demo-technic” approach. The latter combines the study of players’ demographic profile and their on-pitch performances both on an individual and collective level.
The five chapters that make up the publication cover the following areas: player selection and turnover; age structure and club experience; mobility and contracts; club pitch performance; player pitch performance.
Player selection and turnover
A first insight of the Study is that squad size is generally negatively correlated to results. The fewer players used, the better the results. No 2011/12 big-5 league champion has fielded more than 25 footballers over the course of the season (from 25 for Real Madrid and Juventus to 23 for Dortmund and Montpellier). All title winners figure among the five clubs having utilised the least players in their respective league.
No big-5 league club has used as few players as German Bundesliga and Champions League runner-up Bayern München (21). The best performing clubs rely more than any other team on a core group of players who make up the main stay of the starting eleven. From a performance perspective, the analysis suggests that the best strategy is to have at least eight stable players in the initial line-up.
The average percentage of minutes played by the four most used defensive footballers was always higher than 78% in title winner clubs, up to 89.8% for Montpellier (4th greatest value at big-5 league level, +28% compared to Paris St-Germain) and 90.6% for Juventus (2nd, +19% compared to Milan).
Greatest number of players used: 1) Wolfsburg 36; 2) Queens Park Rangers 35; 3) Cesena 34
Lowest number of players used: 1) Bayern Munich 21; 2) Athletic Bilbao 22; 3) Montpellier and Borussia Dortmund 23
Age structure and club experience
The report shows that investing in young players is more than ever a key success factor. In all leagues, the average age of players fielded by champions was lower than that of runner-up teams. All title winners are among the ten youngest clubs in their respective league. As in the previous season, the youngest champion was German (Dortmund, 24.5), while the oldest was Italian (Juventus, 28.0).
With the exception of Juventus, the highest percentage of minutes among champions was played by footballers aged between 22 and 26. However, no title winners fielded as regularly players under 22 years of age as English and German runner-ups: Manchester United (25% of minutes) and Bayern Munich (22%). Within the context of a generation change, their strategy of giving a chance to young talent will pay dividends.
The best teams concentrate in their squad footballers having acquired extensive big-5 league experience already at a young age. Among the teams made up of young but already experienced players are the possible current season’s surprise teams: Athletic Bilbao, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04.
Oldest players on the pitch: 1) Levante 30.45; 2) Inter Milan 29.74; 3) Fulham 29.72
Youngest players on the pitch: 1) Toulouse FC 24.02; 2) Stade Rennais 24.19; 3) Hoffenheim and Espanyol Barcelona 24.25
Mobility and contracts
Footballers fielded by the best performing clubs have played a greater number of seasons together than their counterparts in lower tier teams. This shows the importance of squad stability in winning trophies. However, Manchester City and Juventus won their league with relatively low social capital available. This highlights the outstanding work carried out by club managers Mancini and Conte.
Except for Juventus, all champions were among the four teams having fielded the least players signed at the start or during the season in their respective league. Only German surprise team Borussia Mönchengladbach (0.51) used fewer new signings than Spanish title winner Real Madrid (0.84). PSG’s second place in France with 6.17 new signings on the pitch can be seen as a prelude to even better results.
In all champion clubs, players whose contract ran out at the end of the season played a much lower percentage of minutes than among league rivals. The ability of the best performing clubs not to rely too much on players who will be leaving the club in the near future is part of their competitive advantage.
Longest contract duration at the end of the season: 1) Real Madrid 3.17; 2) Newcastle 3.00; 3) Palermo 2.69
Shortest contract duration at the end of the season: 1) Santander 0.37; 2) Rayo Vallecano 0.38; 3) Lecce 0.57
Club pitch performance
The pitch performance of clubs is measured using data provided by our partners Opta. Our key performance indicators cover five areas of the game: shooting, chance creation, take on, distribution and recovery. All the indicators aggregated on a team level are positively correlated to results. This allows the objective identification of the highest performing clubs and players in the most decisive areas of the game.
Barcelona is at the top of the ranking of the most productive big-5 league teams, followed by arch rival Real Madrid, Manchester City, Juventus and Manchester United. Five English clubs are in the 12 first positions of the table. This shows that the greatest concentration of top level teams is to be found in the English Premier League.
The first French club is only 11th (Paris St-Germain). Montpellier success in the Ligue 1 is mainly related to the outstanding contribution of substitute players (1st position in France, 5th place at big-5 league level). Barcelona is among the three best performing big-5 league clubs in all areas of the game. Manchester City is not in the top three in the take on area only (18th).
Most productive clubs per area of the game: General: Barcelona; Shooting: Real Madrid; Chance creation: Real Madrid; Take on: Manchester United; Distribution: Barcelona; Recovery: Juventus
Player pitch performance
Statistical procedures have been developed to compare players at big-5 league level by neutralising the three following possible biases: different styles of play between leagues, different competitive balance within leagues, and different competitiveness of league representatives at international level. These methodological precautions allow us to objectively rank players from different leagues.
Lionel Messi was the most decisive player in the 2011/12 big-5 league season. Barcelona’s forward over-performed compared to Cristiano Ronaldo in all areas of the game except for shooting, during each part of the season, against every kind of opponent, as well as both in home and away matches. However, the positive gap in away matches was significantly lower than at home.
English Premier League footballers are over-represented in the first positions of the general ranking. There are eight among the 13 top ranked players and 22 among the first 60. This confirms the great level of talent concentration in England.
Most productive players per area of the game: General: Messi (Barcelona); Shooting: Ronaldo (Real Madrid); Chance creation: Özil (Real Madrid); Take on: Montero (Betis); Distribution: Xavi (Barcelona); Recovery: Vidal (Juventus).