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Length of passes: the best like it short

Issue number 263 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post analyses the average length of passes by teams from 35 European domestic leagues. The study highlights big discrepancies in playing styles. There are almost 8 meters difference between the teams that executed the longest and shortest passes: Rotherham United (23.42m) and Paris St-Germain (15.85m). 

Many very competitive teams are in the top 25 of the rankings for the shortest passes, including Champions League semi-finalists FC Barcelona (2nd) and AFC Ajax (5th), as well as Europa League finalist Chelsea FC (4th). The vast majority of teams executing the longest passes are in the bottom-half of the table in their respective leagues. Getafe CF is the exception that confirms the rule. 

The analysis per league also reveals the persistence of cultural differences in the approach of the game. Teams from the Scottish Premier League (21.08m) and the English Championship (20.58m) execute on average the longest passes. At the opposite end of the table, we find the French Ligue 1 and the Finnish Veikkausliiga (18.89m in both cases). Data comes from InStat.

Report and Atlas on expatriate footballers disclosed

For the third year, the CIES Football Observatory analyses the presence of expatriate players in 147 leagues from 98 national associations. Brazil is clearly at the top of the rankings for countries exporting the most footballers (1,330 players), ahead of France (867) and Argentina (820). Alone, these countries export almost a quarter of footballers (22.5%). Overall, the number of expatriates increased by 5.0% compared to 2018.

During last year, the number of expatriates has increased for each of the three principle exporting countries: Brazil (+64 players, +4.8%), France (+37 players, +4.3%) and Argentina (+57 players, +7.0%). The number of Spaniards abroad has also strongly increased (+61 players, +14.3%). This is the second biggest increase in absolute terms after that of the Brazilians.

The most frequented migratory route originates from Brazil and ends in Portugal (261 players). The migration of Argentinians to Chili (116 players) is the second principle axis. Two migratory channels departing from England also involve many footballers: the first ends up in Scotland (113 players), while the second leads to Wales (92 players).

England and Italy are the chief importing countries of footballers. The professional clubs of these countries employ 728 and 636 expatriate players respectively. Without taking into account the 139 citizens of the other UK nations present in England, it is thus in Italy that the greatest number of players imported from abroad are to be found.

The CIES Football Observatory research team is also proud to disclose the brand new Atlas of Migration mapping the international flows of footballers.

Production champions: Napoli, Olympiacos, Leeds, and who else?

Issue number 262 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the three best and worst teams per league in terms of points that they should have achieved according to their pitch production. Virtual points were projected according to a statistical model including shots taken and conceded (both on target and from the box), as well as the percentage of ball possession.

With respect to the indicators selected, Napoli and Atalanta should have achieved more points than the Italian Serie A champions Juventus. However, Massimiliano Allegri’s players were much more efficient. In the Greek top division, both Olympiacos and AEK Athens had a greater pitch production than champions PAOK. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United tops the production rankings in the English Championship.

According to pitch production, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund should only have ranked fourth in the German Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen. The Ruhr team was thus particularly efficient. In Turkey, İstanbul Başakşehir virtually outranks Beşiktaş and Galatasaray. More data is available in the CIES Football Observatory Performance Atlas powered by InStat data.

Top transfer values for U20 big-5 league players

Issue number 261 of the Weekly Post presents the top 50 list of the U20 players from the big-5 with the highest transfer value according to the CIES Football Observatory algorithm. The English full international Jadon Sancho heads the table with an estimated value of €150M. Borussia Dortmund’s winger outranks Arsenal’s Mattéo Guendouzi (€70M) and AS Roma’s Nicolò Zaniolo (€67M).

Four other big-5 league players born on or after January 1st 1999 have an estimated value greater than €50M: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Declan Rice (West Ham), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan AC) and Vinícius Júnior (Real Madrid). Footballers from 18 national associations feature in the top 50 list. The most represented country is France (13 players), followed by England (9).

The updated transfer valuations for all players from the five major European competitions are available here. In order to keep some more exclusive information, we have henceforth decided to display only price ranges. The latter still refer to the most probable fee for the most likely buyer. Additional services can be provided on a mandate basis.

RB Leipzig signed its footballers at the youngest age

The 260th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post analyses the age at which players fielded during this season in 24 European top divisions were signed by their clubs of employment. Academy graduates are not included in the sample. RB Leipzig recruited its footballers at the youngest age (21.43 years on average), while MKE Ankaragücü signed them at the oldest one (29.28 years).

The second and third lowest values for age at recruitment at big-5 league level were registered for two other teams with a transfer strategy clearly focused on the signing of young talents: Real Madrid (21.95 years on average) and Olympique Lyonnais (22.64 years). Many other very competitive teams are in the top 20 positions of the rankings. At the opposite end of the table is Parma (27.35 years).

CSKA Moskva is the club from the 19 further European top divisions surveyed that signed its squad members at the youngest age: 21.9 years on average. The Russian side outranks the club having fielded so far the youngest footballers in domestic league games during current season: FC Nordsjælland (see Demographic Atlas). At third position is RB Salzburg, ahead of five Dutch and two Belgian teams.

Defensive air challenges: Marcelo ahead of Maguire and van Dijk

Marcelo Guedes (Olympique Lyonnais) heads the big-5 league rankings of players having won the highest percentage of defensive air challenges in domestic league matches this season: 136 out of 159 (85.5%). The Brazilian outranks three English Premier League players: Harry Maguire, Virgil van Dijk and Shane Duffy. The top 50s for the big-5 and 26 other European competitions are available in issue number 259 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post.

The top ranked players for the remaining big-5 European leagues are Dimitrios Siovas (CD Leganés), 37-year-old Bruno Alves (Parma) and Mats Hummels (Bayern). Three other world champions are in the top 50 table: the Spaniards Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos, as well as the French Raphaël Varane. Only footballers with at least 80 challenges according to the statistics provided by our partners InStat were included in the analysis.

Heart of Midlothian’s centre back Christophe Berra heads the table for players in the other 26 competitions surveyed. The Scottish won 233 of his 268 defensive aerial challenges: 86.9%. He outranks three other central defenders: Felipe Augusto (FC Porto), Jake Cooper (Millwall) and the captain of the French Ligue 2 club of Clermont Foot Julien Laporte. The top ranked full back is the Dutch full international Denzel Dumfries (PSV Eindhoven).

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