Fewer eligible players in the main European leagues
© AFP

The Professional Football Players Observatory, created with the support of FIFA and born out of a partnership between the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) and the University of Franche-Comte (France), today (Thursday, 14 August) published the third edition of the 'Annual Review of the European Football Players' Labour Market'. It reveals that the percentage of foreign players with clubs in the top flight of each of the five main European leagues (Germany, England, Spain, France and Italy) continues to increase.

The research by the Professional Football Players Observatory shows that foreign players made up 42.4 per cent of all players employed by English, Spanish, Italian, German and French clubs during the 2007-08 season. This represents a 3.5 per cent increase over the previous season. The figure reached 59.5 per cent in the English Premier League, 52.6 per cent among the top five clubs in each league and 50.5 per cent among strikers. For the first time, foreign players scored more than half of the total number of goals (51.9 per cent).

The number of Latin Americans among the foreign players rose by 2 per cent against players from other parts of the world. Non-European players now represent 50 per cent of the total number of foreign players. This percentage was only around 30 per cent before the introduction of freedom of movement in European football. By far the greatest number of foreign players came from Brazil, which exported 158 players. Their contingent has increased by 12.9 per cent compared to the previous season (+18 players).

The publication from the Professional Football Players Observatory also shows that the percentage of locally trained players on clubs' books continues to decrease while player's mobility is steadily increasing.

In view of these figures, the FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has highlighted "the need to have solidarity and maintain a balance in football". The head of world football's governing body is convinced that "the introduction of 6+5 will redress the balance in sporting terms".

Blatter's proposal has the backing of many associations: "I can guarantee that continents like South America and Africa are behind us on this, as they are the main suppliers for big European clubs and they are suffering from the exodus of their players."