football

Huge numbers of players in the World Cup are expats, study shows

by Ray Clancy on June 19, 2014

It is not only the average football fan watching the World Cup in Brazil, as talent spotters from the biggest clubs in the world look for their next superstar player.

This highlights the fact that many current players are already expats and more are set to become so if they sign with one of the major football clubs.

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England, Germany and Spain are considered the most welcoming countries for expat footballers

A study by Expat Finder, which is based in Singapore, has found that the number of expat players — those who leave their home country to play overseas — varies dramatically, from as low as 0% for Russia to 100% for Uruguay.

Other countries with a high number of expat footballers include Ivory Coast at 96%, Algeria and Cameroon with 91% and Bosnia Herzegovina with 90%. Key findings also include France with 65% expats, Argentina 87% and Brazil 83%.

England likes to keep its players home, with a mere 4% of its players playing overseas during the championship season. European countries also tend to have fewer expat players in their leagues. Italy has 17% and Germany 30%.

As many footballers play in championships abroad, they are faced with the same challenges all expats experience in their daily lives. Countries such as England (19.7%), Germany (13%) and Spain (13%) are the most welcoming countries for expat players, according to the study.

It also shows that midfielders are the most desired position, with most expats players playing this position. Some 33% of defenders are expats, 21% of forwards and 9% of goalkeepers.

Expats around the world that follow the World Cup in their respective time zones will find that most of those players have actually faced many of the challenges of an everyday expat, such as finding a home, a school for the kids and making friends.

Famous expat footballers include Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo who now lives in Spain, though he doesn’t have far to travel home. Lionel Messi is originally from Argentina but plays in Spain for Barcelona FC, though he does not have to face the language barrier familiar to many expats.

That said, being a well-paid footballer does not make you immune to being homesick. Manchester City’s Jesus Navas has overcome severe homesickness (which for a long time prevented him from leaving Spain) to move to the UK.

Another Spanish player, Jose Reyes, suffered from homesickness when he moved to Arsenal in 2004, even although his parents and brother lived with him in London.

One time leading goal scorer at Liverpool, Ian Rush, admitted he never quite managed to settle in Italy during his one season with Juventus in 1987. But he later said it was one of the best things he has done in his life, citing that it made him a better player.

Shortly after his £24 million transfer to Chelsea in 2004, striker Didier Drogba told French newspaper L’Equipe that he felt slightly homesick and that Marseille, the club he left for London, was still very much a part of his heart.

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