When it comes to attracting the best of the rest to their respective country, Germany are behind England in first and Italy in second. The Barclay’s Premier League, still seen by most as the best league in the world, although European showings this year would suggest otherwise, even if it is an anomaly season alongside consistently strong outings, attracts the most expatriates to its shores with 56.5% of last week’s minutes being played by imports. Comparably, third-placed Germany’s figure is just 43%.
Most interestingly, are the La Liga and Ligue 1 figures: Spain, current European and World Cup champions, as well as the home of Champions League and Club World Cup winners Barcelona, had an expatriate ratio of just 34%, whilst France, who produced this weekend’s three best performers from across the top five leagues in Europe (Hatem Ben Arfa, Eden Hazard & Karim Benzema) had an even smaller margin of expatriates at 31%. Perhaps the most blatant figure in support of England’s developing focus on homegrown players, yet.
In the top ten most heavily expatriate saturated teams, Premier League sides take up eight of the slots with Italy providing the other two. Serie A have the least nationalistic side in the rankings with Internazionale – unsurprisingly given their name was founded in their break away from A.C. Milan, unhappy with an Italian dominance within the first team – who are made up 89.6% by expatriates.
However, whilst Germany take up the middle ground when it comes to expatriates, which perhaps suggests they have the perfect blend of imports and homegrown talent, they lead in two key categories which place them head and shoulders above the rest and could prove to be vital factors in any success their clubs or country enjoy in the near future.
Firstly, on average, the Bundesliga is the tallest league in Europe towering over the pocket-sized La Liga (181.2cm) and its European counterparts in Ligue 1 (181.5cm), Serie A (181.8cm) and the Premier League (182.4cm), at a grandiose 183.1cm. Comparably, Stoke City, who are often thought of as the big bully boys of the Premier League, are exactly that: at 185.79cm, The Potters are the tallest side in not just the Premier League, but in the top five leagues in Europe. They even look down at Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga’s tallest side at 185.77cm.
In support of the big boys, this month has seen the two lumbering teams share one underdog trait: whilst 12th placed Stoke held title-chasers Manchester City to a 1-1 draw this weekend, with their tallest player 6’7 Peter Crouch scoring a sublime goal to level things, Bayer Leverkusen overcame Bundesliga’s own trophy seeking side Bayern Munich, by two goals to nil and the 6’5 Stefan Kiebling struck one of the decisive goals.
Secondly, on average, Germany’s top flight is the youngest across all five divisions in Europe’s finest footballing countries. With an average age of 25.7-years, the Bundesliga is 3.1-years younger than the aging Serie A and 1.3-years younger than the Premier League. As you would have thought then, Germany’s international side is much younger than many of their counterparts: however, due to the lower average age of their league, the young German players are already experienced for the world stage having performed domestically already.
Yet, in defence of English football, The Premier League are still coming out on top when it comes to club-trained players. From Arsenal to Wigan, from league leaders Manchester United to bottom of the table Wolves, the Premier League is host to more club-trained players this season than their counterparts in the Bundesliga.
This may seem contradicting on the surface: the Premier League is a petri-dish for cash-rich investors and recently the influx of foreign players has seen England’s top flight rise to the top for the charts of expatriates plying their trade in the Premier League – as aforementioned. Nevertheless, it is factual and reads well for fans of English football.
The European average for the top 500 clubs in the continent is 22.2%; in the Premier League it is 16.2% and in the Bundesliga it is 16%. However, whilst Italy’s Serie A has a depressingly low percentage of club-trained players at 7.4%, the lowest in all of Europe, La Liga and Ligue 1 continue to lead the way, ahead of England and Germany.
Whilst the figures do support the plans for English football – the restructuring of youth development with the Elite Player Performance Plan and the soon to be unveiled St George’s Park National Football Centre – it is also a reminder to those that see the Premier League as ailing that it is not and whilst it does so, it should also not go mistaken for accomplishment, but rather a work in progress. At the moment, the Premier League still has a way to go to balance quality imports with talented homegrown players and instant achievement with sustainable success.
All statistical data is an evaluation of the top five leagues in Europe (England, France, Germany, Italy & Spain) as provided by CIES Football Observatory and OPTA.