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Football players’ production: Brazil world leader

The CIES Football Observatory just published its 55th Monthly Report. The study analyses the contribution of national associations worldwide from the point of view of the production of professional players. The sample includes 55,865 footballers having played during the 2019 calendar year in 132 top or second division leagues from 93 countries covering all continents.

To produce the ranking, domestic league minutes played by each footballer were weighted according to a coefficient of clubs’ sporting strength, calculated by taking into account the division and results of teams at national level, as well as the results of the representatives of every association in international club competitions. The origin of players was defined as the association where they grew up.

Brazil stands out as the world leader regarding the production of professional footballers. Brazilians are numerous (2,748 in the 132 leagues studied, of which 1,541 are abroad), play a considerable number of minutes (1,203 domestic league minutes per year compared to a general average of 1,133 minutes) and are active in high-level clubs (sporting coefficient of 0.49 compared to an average of 0.37).

France is the second world powerhouse, just ahead of Spain. The French are more numerous than the Spanish in the leagues studied (1,744 as opposed to 1,350), but are less fielded (on average 1,260 minutes against 1,360 in 2019) and play in clubs with a lower level (average sporting coefficient of 0.55 as opposed to 0.63). Argentina ranks fourth outranking two other European countries: England and Germany.

Goalless matches: Africa stands out

The 295th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post ranks 150 top division leagues and clubs worldwide according to the percentage of goalless games during the five-year period between January 2015 and December 2019. At the top 30 places are 23 Africans domestic championships. The highest percentage overall was recorded in Gambia (23.5%) ahead of Cameroon (19.1%).

The highest and lowest percentages per Confederation were recorded for Iraq (14.9%) and Macao (2.9%) in Asia (continental average of 7.6%), Gambia (23.5%) and Madagascar (7.4%) in Africa (13.9%), Haiti (18.5%) and Suriname (3.0%) in North America (8.1%), Argentina (11.5%) and Bolivia (5.6%) in South America (8.3%), as well as Montenegro (13.0%) and Northern Ireland (3.4%) in Europe (7.9%).

At club level, the figures vary between 29.8% for Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) and 0.0% for Warrenpoint Town. None of the 167 games played by the Northern Irish team during the period considered ended goalless. The highest percentage for current teams from the five major European leagues was recorded for Angers (23 0-0 out of 191 matches, 12.0%), while the lowest was observed for Cagliari (6 out of 195, 3.1%).

Which clubs and leagues field the most U21 players?

Early professional experience is key to succeed in football. Great discrepancies exist between clubs and leagues in the opportunities given to young players to prove their talent. Issue number 294 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the percentage of minutes played in the current season or the last completed one by U21 footballers from 1,292 clubs and 93 top divisions worldwide.

At league level, the playing time of U21 footballers stretches from 29.0% in the Slovakian Super Liga to only 3.7% in the Saudi Pro League and the Turkish Süper Lig. In South America, the figures vary from 21.2% in Uruguay to 11.0% in the Argentina. The French Ligue 1 is the major European league with the highest percentage of minutes by U21 players (15.0%), while the Spanish Liga is at the opposite end of the table (7.0%).

The highest figures at club level per Confederation were recorded for the reserve team of Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand (93.3%), the Young Lions in Singapore (81.1%), University College Dublin in Ireland (78.0%), Cavalier in Jamaica (58.1%), Universidad San Martín in Peru (56.6%) and NA Hussein Dey in Algeria (40.0%). In the big-5, the highest value was measured for LOSC Lille (32.1%), while four clubs did not field U21 players (Levante, Crystal Palace, Union Berlin and Sheffield United).

Impact of first goal: Red Star Belgrade at the top

Between January 2015 and December 2019, Red Star Belgrade won 130 domestic league matches out of the 135 during which they scored the first goal: 96.3%. This is the highest value measured among clubs from 92 top divisions worldwide ahead of Sherif Tiraspol from Moldova (94.1%) and Albirex Niigata Singapore (93.3%). The full analysis is available in the 293rd CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post.

The highest percentages of wins in case of first goal for current big-5 league teams over the five years studied were recorded for Paris St-Germain (89.9%, 124 wins out of 138), Barcelona (88.5%, 116 out of 131) and Manchester City (87.1%, 115 out of 132). Per league, the lowest value were recorded for Toulouse, Augsburg, Udinese, Eibar and Southampton. The lowest percentage overall was recorded for the Australian side Central Coast Mariners (20 wins out of 53, 38%).

At league level, the values range from four fifth of wins for the team having scored the first goal in the Moldavian top division to only about two thirds in the Chilean one. The average for the 92 competitions analysed is just below 70%. At the level of the big-5, the percentages go from 71.1% in the English Premier League to 67.8% in the German Bundesliga. The lowest values in Europe were recorded for the Belgian and Norwegian top divisions (66.3% in both cases).

Player export: Brazil leads the table

Issue number 292 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post ranks countries worldwide according to the number of their representatives having played professional football abroad during the calendar year 2019. Brazil is at the top of the table (1,600 players, of which 74.6% active in top division leagues) ahead of France (1,027, 74.0%) and Argentina (972, 75.5%).

In total, 186 national associations had at least one player expatriated in the 141 leagues from 93 countries included in the sample. However, altogether, Brazil, France and Argentina provided up to almost one quarter of the total foreign workforce in global football (22.5%). Nigeria is the main African exporting nation (399 players abroad), while Japan is the principal Asian one (161).

The CIES Football Observatory Atlas of Migration presents the main destinations for each origin. This exclusive tool notably reveals that Portugal is by far the main destination for Brazilians, ahead of Italy and Japan. The three main destinations for the French expatriates are England, Belgium and Luxembourg, while those of the Argentineans are Chile, Mexico and Spain.

Best stepping-stone clubs: Ajax ahead of Benfica

The 291st Weekly Post of the CIES Football Observatory highlights the main clubs from where current big-5 league players departed to reach the five major European leagues. At the top of the stepping-stone club rankings are three regular European Cup participants: AFC Ajax (22 players currently in the big-5 were recruited there), SL Benfica (21) and RB Salzburg (20).

In the top 15 positions also are three Belgian teams (KRC Genk, RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge KV), two further Portuguese clubs (Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Porto), an additional Dutch one (PSV Eindhoven), as well Swiss (FC Basel), Croatian (Dinamo Zagreb) and Danish (FC København) sides. The B-teams of Real Madrid (4th) and FC Barcelona (11th) also figure high in the rankings. The first non-European team is Boca Juniors (15th).

The 54th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report broadens the analysis by revealing that recruitment from a non-big-5 league team is the most common way of entering the five major European leagues (48%), followed by advancement from the youth academy or the B-team of a big-5 league club (39%, up to 50% for players who made their debut in the Spanish Liga) and the promotion from a second division of the club of belonging (13%).

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