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Exclusive CIES Football Observatory analysis of four Latin American leagues

For the first time, a CIES Football Observatory report turns its eye exclusively to Latin America. It analyses the squads of four leagues: the Brazilian Serie A, the Argentinean Superliga, the Chilean Primera División and the Mexican Liga MX. Il notably reveals the specificity of the Mexican league with respect to the presence of footballers imported from abroad. Expatriates account for the majority of players in line-ups, while they only play about a tenth of minutes in Brazil and Argentina. Access the study.

The report also brings to light the greater emphasis on the promotion of talents from youth academies by Argentinian teams. Boca Juniors is the most important training club, followed by three other clubs from Argentina: Vélez Sarsfield, River Plate and Newell’s Old Boys. The most important training clubs for the other three countries studied are São Paulo FC in Brazil, Atlas Guadalajara in Mexico and Universidad de Chile in Chili.

The study also shows the central role of Argentina as a provider of players for the leagues analysed. Indeed, Argentinians constitute the most numerous contingents of expatriates in Mexico, as well as in Chili and Brazil. On the contrary, only eight Brazilians are expatriated in the leagues studied (all in Mexico). The other countries with many expatriates in the championships taken into account are Colombia, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Finally, the report illustrates the specificity of the Brazilian Serie A regarding the plethora of players used by teams. This situation reflects the status of Brazil as a global source of labour par excellence. From this point of view, just playing a few matches can open the doors towards a transfer abroad, even though not in the most prestigious football countries.

Mbappé valued at €265 million by CIES Football Observatory algorithm

The CIES Football Observatory opens a new exciting decade of football analytics with the exclusive publication of its traditional list of the big-5 league players with the greatest estimated transfer values. At the top three positions of the table are Kylian Mbappé (France and Paris St-Germain), Raheem Sterling (England and Manchester City), as well Mohammed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool). Issue number 279 of the Weekly Post presents the 166 footballers in the big-5 valued at more than €50 million.

Per position, the most expensive players from a transfer value perspective are Alisson Becker for goalkeepers (€77 M), Virgil van Dijk for centre backs (€93 M), Trent Alexander-Arnold for full backs (€110 M), James Maddison for midfielders (€112 M) and Kylian Mbappé for forwards (€265 M). Eleven out of the 20 big-5 league footballers with an estimated value of at least €100 million play for English Premier League clubs.

There are at least two players worth more than €100 M are in each of the remaining big-5 leagues: three in the Liga (Messi, Griezmann and João Felix), two in the Ligue 1 (Mbappé and Neymar), two in the Serie A (Martínez and Lukaku), as well as two in the Bundesliga (Sancho and Werner). More information about the exclusive approach developed by the CIES Football Observatory research team to estimate transfer values on a scientific basis is available in this methodological note.

MVPs of the semester: big-5 league teams

The CIES Football Observatory has developed a property algorithm to assess the performance of footballers from the exclusive data produced by the leading sports company OptaPro. Issue number 278 of the Weekly Post presents the MVP per big-5 league club, as well as the top values for each of the six areas of the game analysed. Only players fielded for at least nine (MVPs) and respectively six (per domain) full domestic league matches are included.

The MVPs are footballers whose performance had the biggest influence in their teams’ results. We notably find Marco Verratti at Paris St-Germain, Lionel Messi at Barcelona, Toni Kroos at Real Madrid, Kevin de Bruyne at Manchester City, Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, Ciro Immobile at Lazio, Jamie Vardy at Leicester City, Dimitri Payet at Olympique Marseille, Miralem Pjanić at Juventus, Sven Bender at Bayer Leverkusen and Milan Škriniar at Inter.

At Real Madrid, five different footballers head the tables per area of the game: Raphaël Varane for rigour (duels), Carlos Casemiro for recovery (interceptions), Toni Kroos for distribution (passes), Eden Hazard for take on (dribbles) and Karim Benzema for both chance creation (assists) and shooting (attempts). At Barcelona, three players only top the rankings: Lionel Messi for all of the attacking indicators, Clément Lenglet for rigour and Sergio Busquets for both recovery and distribution.

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.

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