With the summer transfer window up and running and likely to build in intensity, we’ve looked at the data behind every signing by a club in one of the big five European leagues over the last decade to try and predict where the most business will take place.
In addition to looking at which parts of the world teams are signing players from, we’ve also looked at which countries are popular and how these trends are changing, along with how the biggest spenders have been distributing their wealth.
Where are the players coming from?
Each nation’s clubs tend to prioritise different markets for their spending. Italian clubs have been the happiest to sign players from their domestic rivals, with two thirds of players moving to a Serie A club over the last 10 years already plying their trade in the country.
The Premier League meanwhile has been the most outward-looking with exactly half of its clubs’ signings arriving from overseas, although it also purchased the smallest share – just over 5% – from outside Europe.
Where is the biggest spenders’ money going?
To illustrate this further we looked at the biggest-spending club in each division to see where their money was going. The biggest spenders of all were Manchester City, who have splashed over a billion pounds in the last decade; roughly a third of it within England compared to almost half of it in one of the other big leagues.
Italian champions Juventus spend twice the proportion on domestic talent – 71% – while Real Madrid and PSG are the happiest to shop abroad; the French giants spent the same proportion of their transfer funds in the other ‘big five’ leagues alone.
Along with Real, Bayern were the most comfortable shopping outside the top leagues, with both clubs committing roughly a fifth of their spending to players from less prestigious leagues.
Which leagues are becoming more popular?
The development of the Turkish league can be illustrated by how many more players it has provided to the top five European leagues in the last five seasons compared to the five before – a growth of 25.
Belgium is not far behind, reflecting the growth in stature of their star-studded national team, although the outflow of these two nations combined remains broadly equivalent to the stream of players leaving the dominant talent factory: Portugal.
Which leagues are becoming less popular?
What is surprising is the significant decrease in players moving from South America; the three largest decreases have been in those arriving from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay respectively. Whether this is just the effect of improvements in leagues closer to home – like those mentioned above – or also to do with the relative ease of scouting and integrating players from the same continent is unclear, but it is concerning for those South American clubs whose business models rely on regularly exporting their brightest talent.
Which clubs have signed the most players from a specific nation?
Finally we wanted to see if there were any clubs which had developed a preference for shopping in a particular league. We were unsurprised to discover that Newcastle’s fondness for buying players from France and Manchester City’s raids on Spain both featured among the five largest flows from a specific league to a single club.
The portfolio of clubs owned by the Pozzo family outstrip both of these though. Udinese have signed 21 players from LaLiga – around half of them from stablemates Granada – while Watford in turn have taken 20 from Serie A.
The top five is rounded out by Atletico Madrid, who owe much of their recent success to some canny Portuguese acquisitions. They signed a young Diego Costa from Braga in 2008 and have followed that up with the capture of stars such as Falcao and Jan Oblak.
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