THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A study by the Football Observatory shows that percentage of players migrating before age of 18 has doubled with England top destination

16 December ~ An ongoing study by the Football Observatory has revealed that the proportion of footballers who migrate abroad during their career is higher than ever, while the average age at which they do so for the first time is decreasing and England is the biggest importer of minors.

The analysis shows that “over the last twenty years, the percentage of players from the five major European leagues having migrated over the course of their career has more than doubled”. In 1995 just 24 per cent of footballers in the English, Spanish, German, French and Italian top divisions had some experience abroad, compared to 55 per cent now.

Over the same period the average age of the first departure abroad in these leagues has dropped from 23.2 to 21.1, with the number of players in the “big-five” leagues to have left their country before their 18th birthday having tripled, from 51 in 1995 to 184 in 2015.

The study also looked at the origins of players across the European leagues, with Belgians the most likely to move before turning 18. In October 2016 there were 38 players from Belgium who had migrated as minors playing in 31 European top division leagues, while Sweden and France had 23 each, Hungary 22, and Austria and Brazil 20.

Out of the 597 footballers who migrated under the age of 18, 180 went to England, highlighting the financial power of the Premier League. Italy was second, importing 78 while the Netherlands was third with 53. The most common move, however, was the 18 players who migrated from Belgium to the Netherlands, with Sweden to England (16) and the Netherlands to England (12) next.

The Football Observatory concludes: “This situation is not without its hazards. Indeed, all things being equal, players having left their country under the age of 18 have, on average, less rewarding careers than footballers who left later with more experience under their belt.

“This result indicates that the premature international migration of inexperienced players poses serious risks for both the footballers concerned and the teams recruiting them. Unfortunately, in spite of all sporting logic, in an overly speculative context where numerous actors make their living out of player transfers, the international flow of minors increases with each year.”

You can read the full report here

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