International Centre for
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Wed. 10 November 2021

Record high for expatriate players in European football

After the drop in 2020 within the context of the pandemic, the part of players imported from abroad in the squads of teams from 31 European top divisions has started to rise again. This is one of the main findings from the annual census carried out since 2009 by the CIES Football Observatory research team, published in the 69th edition of the Monthly Report.

Expatriate footballers currently represent 41.9% of players in the 473 clubs surveyed. For the first time in history, players having grown up outside of the association of their employer club represent the majority of footballers within the five major European championships, with a maximum of 60.6% in the Italian Serie A and a minimum of 38.1% in the Spanish Liga. The greatest proportion of expatriates overall was recorded in Cyprus (69.9%).

Despite the growth of expatriates, the presence of club-trained players has also continued to increase after the pandemic. However, the percentage footballers having been in their employer club for at least three seasons between 15 and 21 years of age remains much lower than in 2009: 18.0% as opposed to 23.1%. The slight recent increase is chiefly explained by the rise observed in the least competitive leagues, where clubs suffered the most from the pandemic.

The proportion of players recruited during the year decreased for the fourth consecutive time, reflecting a less frenetic transfer market. The percentage of new signings among squad members went down from 44.9% in 2017 to 40.4% in 2021. The longest average stay in the first team squad of the employer club was recorded for CSKA Moscow (4.83 years), followed by Real Madrid, Athletic Club, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Manchester City.

The full report is available for free here. Further data for the current season taking into account the employment rate of each player is accessible in the exclusive CIES Football Observatory Demographic Atlas. Please write us for more information.

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