According to the CIES Football Observatory, the squad stability in the top European leagues has been analysed, and the results have been far from promising.
The study shows that the presence of club-trained players continues to decrease: from 23.0% in 2009 to 19.2% in 2016. This is the lowest value ever measured. In parallel, the level of expatriates has reached a new record in 2016: 38.7% (+3.9% since 2009).
The greater international mobility of players brings with it a growing instability in squads. The average number of players recruited during the year among those present on the 1st October has increased from 9.1 in 2009 (36.7% of squads) to 10.7 in 2016 (43.9%). This is also a new record.
The criteria for the analysis is based on footballers present on the 1st October having played in domestic league matches during the current season or having taken part in adult championships during each of the two preceding ones. Second and third goalkeepers are taken into account even though they do not meet these criteria.
Also, according to reports, the number of club trained player has also decreased remarkably in the past few years. According to UEFA’s definition, a club-trained footballer is one having played at least three seasons between 15 and 21 years of age in his employer team. Depending on the instance, a player may have no training club, have one or even two. Since 2009, the presence of club-trained footballers has steadily decreased. This category of players now represents less than a fifth of squads. Insofar as transfer market speculation on young talents is on the increase, it seems most likely that the percentage of club-trained footballers will continue to drop over the next few years.
On the 1st October 2016, club-trained players represented 31.5% of footballers in the Slovakian top division. At the other extreme, they accounted for only 6.9% of players in Turkey. In two other countries, Cyprus and Portugal, was this figure under 10%.
Also to be taken into account is the player mobility. To analyse player mobility, the report took into account the number of players in the squads of teams recruited during the year of the census. Players promoted to the first team from youth academies were not considered as being part of the new recruits.
On the 1st October 2009, 9.1 players signed after the start of the year were on average present in the squads of teams from the 31 championships analysed. In 2016, this value increased to 10.7. The average length of stay of players in their employer club has never been as low as in 2016: 2.2 years.
By adding to external recruits the footballers integrated into the first team squad from youth academies, the average percentage of new players in squads rose from 41.2% in 2009 to 48.1% in 2016. Henceforth, almost half of team members change from one year to another.
It’s a trend that has continued to increase and will only increase further. Constant chopping and changing of squads and teams will lead to a general downfall in the stability of teams and squads. As more and more money is involved in European football, the need for quick returns and results increases. Fans and clubs look for short term results and are neglecting the true spirit of the club game. Gone are the days when fans support their team through rebuilding processes and home grown talents are nurtured and made fit for the work ahead. Teams are deviating from their once famous philosophies in trying to keep up with these changing times.
Football has evolved both on and off the pitch and is now recognized as the most popular sport in the world. A high level of following and investment has followed it, and the business aspect of the game looks set to rise. Transfers today are done at exorbitant prices and not every move is a tactical one, a lot of movement and changes are done for purely business purposes.
More emphasis needs to be laid on the the grass root level foundations and patience is the need of the hour. Football is a culture that needs to be maintained and in today’s fast paced, technology savvy world, it is not easy. Somewhere a cross between tradition and the future has to be found and that is the only solution to maintain a high level of health both for the game and the players.
Photo by George M. Groutas