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Best dribblers in the big-5: Messi ahead of St-Maximin

Issue number 252 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post relies on OptaPro data to rank big-5 league footballers according to the number of domestic league minutes played per successful dribble over the last 365 days. Lionel Messi heads the rankings with a dribble achieved every 19.2 minutes, ahead of Allan Saint-Maximin (19.8) and Eden Hazard (21.0). The analysis only includes footballers who played at least 1,800 minutes (1,500 for current Bundesliga players).

Five players who grew up in France are in the top 8 positions: Allan Saint-Maximin, Naïm Sliti, Ousmane Dembélé, Marcus Thuram and Jeff Reine-Adelaide. The young English prodigy Jadon Sancho is the best-ranked player of those currently playing in the Bundesliga ahead of Ihlas Bebou and teammate Achraf Hakimi. Paulo Dybala heads the rankings for Serie A footballers ahead of Rodrigo de Paul and Federico Chiesa.

The Belgium and Chelsea striker Eden Hazard has the best success rate among players who attempted at least 100 dribbles during the period considered (73%). Three other players had a success rate of more than 70%: Naïm Sliti, Marcus Thuram and Éver Banega. At the opposite end of the table are Roberto Pereyra (43%), Fabián Orellana (44%) and Joshua King (also 44%). This unique tool exclusively developed by the CIES Football Observatory allows you to compare the technical profile of big-5 league footballers.

Most experienced young players: the CIES Football Observatory rankings

Issue number 251 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post highlights the 20 most experienced young players from 22 European competitions per year of birth. The rankings were elaborated using an exclusive methodology weighting domestic league minutes played by footballers during the last two years according to the sporting strength of employer teams.

St-Étienne’s centre back William Saliba tops the table for players born in or after 2001. He outranks another French centre back, Benoît Badiashile (Monaco), and the Spaniard Bryan Gil (Sevilla). Two English players head the rankings for players born in 2000: Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) and Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund). Heerenveen’s talent Kik Pierie ranks third ahead of Real Madrid’s rising star Vinícius.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan) is clearly at the top of the 1999-born players. He outranks the Dutch prodigy Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax) and another goalkeeper: Alban Lafont (Fiorentina). World champions Kylian Mbappé (Paris St-Germain) heads the table for players born in 1998, ahead of compatriot Houssem Aouar (Olympique Lyonnais) and Liverpool’s full back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Exclusive training club analysis

The CIES Football Observatory celebrates the 250th edition of its Weekly Post with an exclusive analysis on the contribution of clubs in training the players fielded in big-5 league matches during the last five years. Training clubs are those where players have been for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21. The rankings are elaborated by summing minutes played in the big-5 since January 1st 2014 by all of the footballers trained per club.

Barcelona tops the table with 69 footballers trained fielded in the big-5 by 55 different teams for a total of 319,224 minutes. Behind the Catalans are their great rivals Real Madrid: 69 footballers trained, 44 different clubs, 304,052 minutes. In the top ten positions are six Spanish, three French and one English team (Manchester United). According to the definition used, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba are Manchester United club-trained players.

The best-ranked clubs for the remaining big-5 leagues are Olympique Lyonnais, VfB Stuttgart and AS Roma. The greatest contributors outside of the countries hosting the five major European competitions are River Plate, Sporting Clube, Boca Juniors, Ajax and Feyenoord. In total, 1,370 teams have trained players fielded in the big-5 during the last five years. More information is available on request at football.observatory@cies.ch.

Evolution of competitive balance in the Champions League (2003-2018)

The 42th Monthly Report of the CIES Football Observatory analyses the evolution of the competitive balance in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League since the introduction of the current format in 2003/04. The study illustrates a clear trend towards less balance and more predictability. Changes in the competition format and the redistribution of resources are needed to preserve a sufficient level of sporting and economic balance.

The analysis of the distribution of points at the end of the group stages shows that teams at the top of the table have progressively obtained more points and significantly improved their goal difference. The opposite trend was observed for teams at the bottom of the group. The average goal difference in group stage matches also increased. This is notably linked to the growth of fixtures which concluded with at least a three goal difference: from 16.9% during the first four seasons analysed to a new record of 22.9% between 2015 and 2018.

The study also reveals the greater predictability of matches. The percentage of fixtures where teams that are clear favourites according to odds on the betting market go on to win went clearly up: 81.4% of wins at home between 2014 and 2018 (+5.3% in comparison to 2004-2008) and 74.6% away (+12.1%). A good compromise to preserve the interest of the Champions League over the long term would consist of reducing the number of participants in the group stage, while keeping an open system of competition and guaranteeing a greater percentage of revenue to those excluded.

Solidarity could operate through a meritocratic basis by keeping aside part of the revenues for all of the teams having participated in the training of players fielded. Such a redistributive mechanism would have the great merit of recognising the fundamental role played by a multitude of clubs in developing the players who guarantee the high quality spectacle that the major teams produce and from which they derive benefit. Go to the study here.

Stakhanovite big-5 league players

Who are the footballers having played the most minutes in the big-5 leagues during the last five years? This is the question answered in issue number 249 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post. Samir Handanović (Inter) tops the table for goalkeepers, while César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) heads the rankings for outfield players.

Only ten goalkeepers in the top 25 list have been in the same club during the last five years. This is the same proportion as that observed among outfield footballers. Conversely, Joe Hart played for four different big-5 league teams over this period: Manchester City, Torino, West Ham and Burnley. Only five forwards are in the top 25 list: Lionel Messi, José Callejón, Romelu Lukaku, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann.

The most fielded players at German Bundesliga level, where there are fewer matches as only 18 teams are competing, are Daniel Baier (13,477 minutes for Augsburg) and Oliver Baumann (15,210 minutes for Freiburg and Hoffenheim).

Shots per goal: Paris St-Germain most efficient team in Europe

No team in the 35 European competitions surveyed needed as few shots to score as Paris St-Germain. The French side scored so far every 4.7 shots. According to the exclusive InStat data, this ratio was inferior to five for another big-5 league club only: Borussia Dortmund. The top three per league is available in issue number 248 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post.

The most efficient teams in the three remaining leagues of the big-5 are Barcelona (5.4 shots per goal), Arsenal (5.8) and Sampdoria (5.9). The highest figure among teams from the five major European leagues was recorded for Huddersfield Town: 17.3 shots per goal. The Premier League club must absolutely improve this statistics to avoid relegation.

The most efficient team outside of the big-5 are the Swiss of BSC Young Boys (4.8), ahead of FC Midtjylland and PSV Eindhoven. On the contrary, Apollon Smyrnis (25.1), Hapoel Tel Aviv (21.1) and Arsenal Kyiv (20.7) were so far particularly inefficient. More data is available in the CIES Football Observatory Performance Atlas, as well as on demand.

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