The Professional Football Players Observatory (PFPO*), which has worked together with UEFA on previous occasions, has completed a demographic study of male footballers playing at the top level in Europe.
First of its kind
The study covers 30 top-division leagues, 456 clubs and 11,015 players on a European level, and looks at issues such as recruitment, training, employment and mobility of players. The average age and average height of players, percentage of full internationals and percentage of expatriate players in a country are all included in the report – the first of its kind.
The data used emerges from a systematic analysis carried out in September and October 2008. The criterion for inclusion in the study required the players to have taken part in at least one championship match since the start of the season, or to have participated in professional games during the two previous campaigns. Information was gleaned by combining details from electronic databases and national association websites.
Oldest players in Italy
The Italian league was found to have the oldest players – average age 26.9 years – while the Croatian league comprises the youngest (24.1 years). The study indicates that best-performing clubs generally prefer seasoned players, while young talents often play at less strong clubs. It is also observed that, on average, more experienced players operate as defenders, while younger footballers occupy forward roles on the pitch. A total of 88 players under the age of 18 featured in professional matches. Three-quarters of players are between 1.75 and 1.89m in height, with goalkeepers and defenders tending to be taller than midfielders or strikers.
The percentage of full internationals – players who have represented their senior national team at least once – from among the 11,000-plus players in the study amounts to 27.8, with the percentage varying among leagues. England recorded the highest with 64.8 per cent, while Manchester United FC (88.9 per cent) had the highest proportion of full internationals in its squad. Most full internationals play in the top leagues, and this is a condition for successful national sides.
On average, the study says, Europe's clubs employ 8.6 expatriate footballers, in what is a considerable increase over the last five years. The highest number of imported players is registered in England (59.1 per cent). The percentage of foreign players is above 50 per cent in Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Greece and Russia, while Serbia has the lowest number of expatriate players (14.9 per cent). Only eleven of the 456 clubs in the study did not have foreign players. The leading "exporting" countries are Brazil, France and Argentina.
Future studies by the PFPO will include data on coaches and the UEFA Champions League. "We are happy to note that our Observatory continues to grow," the group says in its report. "Thanks to the confidence which has been given to us by partners such as UEFA, we can look to the future with much optimism."
Click here to read the report in full.
* The PFPO is a Swiss/French research group affiliated to the International Centre for Sport Studies (ICSS [CIES]) at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland and the Théma Laboratory of the University of Franche-Comté in France. Its website can be reached by clicking here.
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