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).
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