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InStat Index: best players across Europe

The leading sports data company InStat has developed an exclusive Index to assess the performance of football players on an objective basis. Issue number 277 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the top 10 rankings for 35 European competitions. The highest InStat Index overall was recorded for the recent Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi: 401.

Per position, the top three ranked footballers are Frederik Rönnow, Wojciech Szczesny and Marwin Hitz among goalkeepers, Virgil van Dijk, Joël Veltman and Willy Boly among centre backs, Andrew Robertson, Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell among full backs, Kevin de Bruyne, Papu Gómez and Marco Verratti among midfielders, as well as Lionel Messi, Hakim Ziyech and Kylian Mbappé among forwards.

The values for all players from the 35 European leagues covered are available in the exclusive InStat Index tool on the CIES Football Observatory website. This unique tool allows users to filter footballers per league, position and age. It is thus possible to focus on specific players’ profiles, as extensively done by club representatives from a scouting perspective.

Players of the decade: Messi leads the table

No outfield footballer played a higher percentage of domestic league minutes of a big-5 league team in the 2010s as Lionel Messi. The Argentinean was fielded for 83.4% of total minutes played by Barcelona in the Liga. This is the second value overall behind that measured for Steve Mandanda (84.2% of Olympique Marseille minutes). The 276th issue of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the most fielded footballer for each of the 42 clubs always present in the big-5 in the 2010s.

The 50th Monthly Report analyses the make-up of these teams over the course of the decade that is about to end. The unique case of Athletic Club Bilbao is reflected in almost all the indicators analysed. FC Barcelona’s case shows that territorial anchoring can be a plus even for a global club. Their success is for the most part linked to the exceptional qualities of home-grown players such as Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué or Sergio Busquets.

Although money is more than ever a key factor, other elements come into play. Squad stability stemming from good strategic planning, as well as the ability of clubs to get the best out of the talents trained in their youth academies and to stimulate a strong sense of belonging to all parties concerned (players, staff, supporters, etc.), remain crucial success criteria even in the today’s hyper-commercial and globalised environment.

Player export: Brazilians and French at the top

Issue number 275 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post maps the origin of expatriate players in 31 European top divisions. With 466 representatives, Brazilians are the most numerous (10.3% of the total number of expatriates), followed by the French (350 players). However, the latter are the most present in the big-5 European leagues: 115 French players abroad compared to 104 Brazilians.

Footballers who grew up in France represent the largest contingent of expatriates in the Premier League (41 players, 15.7% of total playing time of expats), the Bundesliga (28, 8.0%) and the Liga (25, 13.6%). Brazilians are the most present in the Serie A (33 players, 7.3% of minutes played by all expatriates) and the Ligue 1 (25, 5.4%). Brazil is the most represented origin also in Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Finland. They are present in all of the countries covered except Scotland.

With 224 representatives in the 31 European top divisions and 67 expatriates in the five major championships, Spain is the third main exporting country. For a more global vision of player international mobility, the Atlas of Migration of the CIES Football Observatory presents additional data on the presence and distribution of expatriates in 147 leagues from 98 countries worldwide.

Territorial domination: the best at the top, but not always first

Dominating opponents does not always lead to success. However, the InStat data analysed in the 274th CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post shows that most of the best performing teams are able to maximise their passes in the opponent’s third of the pitch, while minimising the opponent’s passes in their own third. The best ratio overall in the 35 European leagues surveyed was measured for Manchester City.

Guardiola’s team made on average 210 passes per match in the opponent’s third, versus only 59 by the opponents in their own third (ratio of 3.55). This ratio is only 1.9 for Premier League leaders Liverpool (180 passes versus 85). The greatest number of passes in the opponent’s third part of the field was recorded for AFC Ajax (220 per match). The Dutch side has the second best ratio (3.43), ahead of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers Glasgow (3.03).

The worst ratio overall was observed for another Scottish side: Hamilton Academical (0.39). A very negative ratio was also recorded for Newcastle United (0.41). Fulham (1.78) has the most positive ratio in the Championship ahead of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United (1.58). Nottingham Forest is at the opposite end of the table (0.71). More data is available in the exclusive CIES Football Observatory & InStat Performance Atlas.

Coutinho leads the table for most expensive players on loan

Issue number 273 of Weekly Post presents the top 50 transfer values for players currently on loan in big-5 league teams. At the head of the table is Philippe Coutinho. However, the price for the Brazilian as estimated by the CIES Football Observatory algorithm (€96.5M) is lower than the option to buy negotiated between Bayern and Barcelona (€120M).

Four other players on loan have an estimated value greater than €50M: Dani Ceballos, Martin Ödegaard, Harry Wilson and Mauro Icardi. While there is in principle no option to buy for the three former players, Paris St-Germain can sign Mauro Icardi for €70M. This is currently a relatively high fee, but it could be no more the case if the Argentinean goes on playing and scoring as he managed to do in October.

With regard to Stefano Sensi and Duván Zapata, the levels of their options to buy are already significantly lower than the estimated values. Inter and Atalanta will probably not hesitate to exercise them. More information on the exclusive CIES Football Observatory approach to assess on a scientific basis the transfer value of professional footballers is available here.

Record high for expatriates, end of club-trained players decline?

The 49th Monthly Report of the CIES Football Observatory analyses the demographic characteristics of players from 31 European top division clubs. It notably reveals that the trend towards less stability and a greater international mobility has declined over the past year. While the level of expatriates has reached a new record (41.8%), the increase was less marked than in previous years: +0.2% as opposed to an average of +1.2% between 2014 and 2018.

For the first time since the first census in 2009, the percentage of club-trained players has grown. However, this increase was very limited (+0.2%). It is thus difficult to claim that the tendency towards fewer club-trained footballers has reversed. In the same vein, the halt in the decrease in the average length of stay of players in their club of employment does not necessarily imply a return towards more stability.

From next year onwards, it will be very interesting to monitor if the increasing economic disparities between teams from different countries will push a greater number of clubs with limited means to concentrate on the promotion of locally trained talents. This holds particularly true in Eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc.) and Southern Europe (Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, etc.), where transfer market activity is particularly prevalent. Access the study!

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