We analyzed each and every minute of football played in the top five European leagues, from 2016 to 2021, to understand the representation of domestic and international players.
Key Findings of Report
- Spain’s La Liga is clearly the leader when it comes to providing opportunities for domesticated players, with Spanish players making up 58.50% of all football played over the last 5 years.
- England’s Premier League provides the worst opportunities for domestic players. Over the last five years, English players played only 33.67% of all playing time – the worst in Europe.
- England is also the only major footballing nation that doesn’t have a decent representation in any other major league.
Domestic Representation In Top Five Football Leagues
As we see from the graph, La Liga leads the way when it comes to representation of domestic players.
Spanish players made up for 56.3% of all playing time in the league in 2016-17. In 2020-21, this share has increased to 60.3%.
The Spanish league is followed by Ligue 1. French players played 50.2% of all playing time.
This share took a dip for the next three years, but it was back to 49.3% in 2020-21. It must be noted that the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season was left unfinished due to Covid-19.
Bundesliga lies in the middle of the graph. The German participation in the Bundesliga was 42.5% in 2016-17. It increased to 44.5% in 17-18. Since then, it has consistently gone down to 39.9% in 20-21.
The case for Serie A is similar to that of the Bundesliga.
The Italian players played 41.2% of all playing time in 16-17.
Their playing share increased to 44.25 in 17-18, but since then, it has been in a constant decline. In fact, in 2020-21, Serie A was responsible for giving the least amount of playing share to domestic players at 35.5%.
Over the years, the Premier League has been blamed for neglecting domestic talent in favour of international stars.
This was in fact true from 2016 to 2020.
However, the Premier League is arguably the only league which has witnessed a significant increase in the playing time of domestic talent in the last couple of seasons.
In 2016-17, English players played only 32% of all playing time. In 2020-21, Premier League overlapped Serie A with English players accounting for 38% of all playing time.
Most Represented Nations In Top Five Football Leagues
England: Premier League
When we look at the collective data from the last five seasons, the Premier League stands last in terms of domestic representation.
Over the last five seasons, English players played only 33.67% of all playing time. Spain comes second, followed by World Champions France.
It is interesting to note that only one out of the top ten nations is not in Europe – Brazil.
France: Ligue 1
Ligue 1 comes second in terms of domestic representation.
Over the last seasons, French players accounted for 48% of all playing time. A look at the graph also shows that Ligue 1 is the preferred destination for players from Africa.
Six out of the remaining nine nations are African: Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Mali, Cameroon and Morocco; Two are South American: Brazil and Argentina; and only one is European: Portugal.
Bundesliga lies in the middle with German players accounting for 42.20% of playing time during the last five seasons.
The German league is a favoured destination for footballers from Austria and Switzerland.
Like the Premier League, Bundesliga has nine European nations and Brazil in the list.
Italy: Serie A
In Serie A, Italian players played 39.80% of playing time during the last five seasons.
It is also evident from the graph that Serie A is popular among South American nations. Argentina and Brazil complete the top three, and Uruguay is in tenth place. The remaining spots are occupied by European nations.
Spain: La Liga
La Liga leads the way when it comes to domestic representation. Since 2016-17, Spanish players have played 58.50% of all football in La Liga.
Similar to Serie A, La Liga is popular among South American players with four nations figuring in the list.
The list also includes four European countries and one African country, Morocco.
It is also worth mentioning that only two nations make all five lists: Brazil and France. Meanwhile, England is the only major footballing nation that features in only one.
Continental Representation in Top Football Leagues
It is clear to see that Bundesliga is the most Europe-centric league among the top football leagues. In the German top tier, the representation of European players ranged between 82.5% and 87.6%.
On the opposite spectrum, Ligue 1 is the least European league among the top leagues. In the French league, the European representation ranged between 59% and 65.9%.
The Premier League, ranging between 76.8% and 80%, ranks slightly above La Liga and Serie A. In La Liga, the representation has increased from 73.8% to 77.8% in the last four years.
In Serie A, it has decreased from 76.2% to 74.2% in the same period.
It’s a clear fight between La Liga and Serie A to be the favourite European destination for South American players. In the last two seasons, Serie A has held the edge over La Liga. In 2020-21, South American players played 17% of all football in Serie A, and 15.4% in La Liga.
Ligue 1 and Premier League are in the middle, with the English league offering 8.6% of its playing time to South American players and Ligue 1 at 7%.
Bundesliga is clearly at the bottom. South American players made up only 3.9% of playing time in 2020-21.
The most important observation from this graph is Ligue 1’s clear domination over other leagues when it comes to finding African talent.
Players from the African continent account for a quarter of all playing time in the French top tier. Their representation ranged between 24.4% to 27% during the last five seasons.
The Premier League is far second in this comparison. Last season, players from African nations contributed 9.3% of playing time in the English league.
The remaining three leagues register figures around the 5% mark, with Serie A holding a slight edge over the other two.
APAC and North America
Representation from Asia-Pacific and North America is quite low in all the leagues. There appears to be no visible trend in both graphs.
However, it must be noted that Bundesliga does slightly better than other leagues for both regions. Meanwhile, Serie A is at the bottom for both regions.
We can say that La Liga is clearly the leader when it comes to providing opportunities to domesticated players.
The Premier League has been the worst during the last five years. However, the English league has shown a positive trend in the last two seasons. In 2020-21, the English league did better than Serie A.
This can be considered a good sign for the future of the England national team. However, England is also the only major footballing nation that doesn’t have a decent representation in any other major league.
Bundesliga is the most Europe-centric league while Ligue 1 is a popular league among African footballers. Both Serie A and La Liga lead the way for South American talent.