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Champions League: like it short (Ajax) or long (Liverpool)?

Issue number 267 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post analyses the exclusive data produced by our partners InStat by ranking Champions League teams according to the average length of the passes achieved in domestic league games so far this season. Past edition semi-finalists Ajax have the lowest figure (15.96 meters), ahead of Paris St-Germain (16.17) and Barcelona (16.56).

At the opposite end of the table are Czech champions Slavia Praha with an average length of 19.82 meters (+24% compared to Ajax). Title holder Liverpool has so far achieved the fourth longest passes among group stage participants: 19.45 meters on average. This figure is significantly higher than for their main Premier League rivals Manchester City (17.39).

The majority of high-profile teams are among those making the shortest passes. Apart from Liverpool, the only recent Champions League finalist with an average length of passes greater than 18 meters is Atlético Madrid. Diego Simeone’s team achieved the third lowest number of passes per game (379), while Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund made the most (735).

Manchester City first billion-euro squad in football history

For the first time in history, a football club invested more than one billion euro in transfer indemnities to assemble its squad: Manchester City. Following last summer transfer window, two clubs are close to this figure: Paris St-Germain (€913 million) and Real Madrid (€902 million). Issue number 266 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the data for all teams in the big-5.

The gap between the costliest and cheapest squad per league is x148 in the Liga (Real Madrid vs Mallorca), x114 in the Ligue 1 (Paris St-Germain vs Nîmes), x85 in the Bundesliga (Bayern vs Paderborn), x63 in the Serie A (Juventus vs Lecce) and x32 in the Premier League (Manchester City vs Norwich). This reflects the great financial divides in European football.

The average transfer expenditure to sign current squad members per league is €345 M in the Premier League, €167 M in both the Liga and the Serie A, €124 M in the Bundesliga and €118 M in the Ligue 1. More exclusive financial analysis on the big-5 league transfer market is available in the 47th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report.

Monthly Report reveals growing football transfer market inflation

All things being equal, the price of players during the last transfer window went up by 31% compared to the previous year. Since 2014, the annual inflation growth rate on the transfer market for big-5 league footballers has been 26%. With respect to 2011, the same player costs now almost three times more. More exclusive analysis is available in the 47th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report.

The amounts at stake on the football players’ transfer market have strongly increased over the past decade. At big-5 league level, the investments in transfer indemnities have grown from €1.5 billion in 2010 to a new record of €6.6 billion in 2019 (+340%). During this period, big-5 league clubs have recorded a cumulative deficit of €8.9 billion. English Premier League clubs alone have a total net negative balance of €6.5 billion, with a record deficit for Manchester City (€1.1 billion).

Despite the increase in spending and a strongly inflationary context, the growing recourse by clubs to payments spread out over several years shows that more and more teams are finding themselves at the limit of their financial capabilities. In an increasingly speculative and uneven environment, a growing number of clubs, even within the most powerful leagues, include the profits made on the transfer market into their financial model. This situation is not without danger for their stability, independence and competitiveness.

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Most expensive big-5 league players: Salah behind Mbappé

Issue number 265 of the Weekly Post presents the 100 players from the five major European leagues with the highest transfer values according to the freshly updated and further improved CIES Football Observatory algorithm. Three forwards are in the top three positions: Kylian Mbappé (€252M), Mohammed Salah (€219M) and Raheem Sterling (€208M).

Apart from strikers, the most expensive footballers per position are Alisson Becker (€107M) for goalkeepers, Trent Alexander-Arnold (€130M) for defenders and Paul Pogba (€125M) for midfielders. Lionel Messi (€167M) heads the rankings for players over 31 years of age, while Cristiano Ronaldo (€118M) tops the table for footballers aged 33 or more.

The CIES Football Observatory algorithm takes into account a wide array of variables such as age, contract, position, minutes, goals, international status, team results, etc. The estimates refer to the value for the most likely recruiting club. The price range for all of the big-5 league players can be accessed for free here. Deeper analysis is available on a consultancy basis.

Monthly Report shows development of women’s football

This new Monthly Report analyses the composition of teams participating in the five of the most developed women’s professional leagues worldwide: four European leagues (Germany, Sweden, France and England), as well as the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States. It reveals that the age of players increases, international mobility grows and the concentration of the best footballers within a limited number of clubs independently of their origin pursues its course.

The average age of players on the pitch has risen from 25.1 years of age in 2017 to 25.5 in 2019. The German Bundesliga is the only championship in which the average age on the pitch has fallen over the last three years. It is now the league fielding the youngest players among those covered by the study: 24.7 years of age (-0.8 since 2017). At the opposite end is the United States National Women’s Soccer League: 27.5 years of age (+1.3 years since 2017).

The percentage of minutes played by expatriates has increased for the third year running reaching a figure of 32.4% (+4.4% in comparison to 2017). The most notable increase was recorded in England (+7.5%), where more and more clubs invest in women’s football through reproducing the same mechanisms already observed in the men’s game. The total number of expatriates in the leagues covered increases year by year: from 300 in 2017, the figure reached 348 in 2018 and 379 in 2019.

Numerous teams play with a majority of footballers with international status. The percentage of minutes played by the latter reaches 99.0% at Bayern Munich and 98.8% at Arsenal. It is greater than 90% in three other teams: Wolfsburg, Manchester City, as well as at the multiple European champions Olympique Lyonnais (94.2%).

Though encouraging, the evolution noted shows the importance of reflecting on regulatory mechanisms to limit the negative effects due to market logics already observed in the men’s game such as, among others, the speculation on young players, the concentration of resources and competitive imbalance.

More and more points won by champions

What is the percentage of points won by champions in the five major European leagues? Issue number 264 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post answers this question for the last twenty seasons. The analysis reveals a progressive increase in the percentage of points achieved by champions.

On average, big-5 league champions obtained 69.9% of points for the five-season period between 1999/2000 and 2003/2004. This percentage went up to 73.9% during the following lustrum, to 77.7% between 2010 and 2014, and again up to 80.5% for the last five seasons. This reflects an ongoing trend towards competitive imbalance.

The record figure overall was registered for Juventus in 2013/14: 89.5% of points. At the other extreme is Olympique Lyonnais in 2002/03: 59.6%. All 2018/19 big-5 league champions achieved at least three quarters of points: from 86.0% for Manchester City (second highest score in the English Premier League history) to 76.3% for Barcelona.

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