Jamón ibérico, wine… and now football players as well. Just like that. Last summer player transfers window has seen the number of Spanish players going international reach its higher ever. As much as 222 Spanish players are registered in top division leagues all over the world, resulting in yet another precious “good” exported globally by the country of La Liga.
Growth for 6th consecutive year
Since national team won 2008 Austria-Switzerland’ Euro, the number of players from Spain in international leagues has kept on growing. More precisely, the number has more than tripled, going from 70 at season 2008-09 to as much as 222 nowadays. And not just that, as during last years we have also seen a wide proliferation of Spanish players in the other top European leagues –England, Germany, Italy and France-, also multiplying by 3 to a total of 48 at season 2013-14, which also shows the improvement on the technical skills of the players from the country of La Roja.
All over the world and with Premier League as preferred destination
Exponential growth of Spanish footballers registered in foreign leagues comes along with the significant increase in the number countries interested in acquiring this precious good. In this sense, at season 2013-14 there are Spanish players in as much as 40 different leagues (on top of La Liga), well ahead the 18 countries we saw years ago. Therefore, on top of having players in the strongest leagues, Spanish football is now present in a large variety of countries including Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Moldavia or New Zealand.
More importantly, Spanish football exporting success is proven by its capacity of placing players at English Premier League, the wealthiest in the world. Never before English fans had seen so many Spanish players every match day (31). Furthermore, Premier League has become the number one destination of La Liga footballers along with Greece. With this, Spain is now the second Premier League players supplier, right after France (with 37).
English Premier League is also the tournament in which Spanish players enjoy the most, which translates in more stability and continuity. As a result, Premier League experiments the longest stays of Spanish players abroad, with an average of 3 years per player. Opposite to this, players going to countries like USA, Iceland, Slovenia or Israel have an average stability which does not even reach one year.
The increase in the number of players sold and in the average value of each transfer has resulted in one more record high figure, since last summer the value of Spanish players traded reached 139mio€, with sale of Thiago Alcántara by FC Barcelona to FC Bayern on top of the ranking (25mio€ transfer price). Thanks to this, teams such as Sevilla (Negredo and Navas) and Valencia (Soldado) have collected nice cash in a tough financial environment, which helped to significantly improve their accounts.
Financial constraints, the main reason
We all know that last summer’s overwhelming Spanish football exporting success was closely related to the desperate need that the majority of teams have of selling their best players as a result of economic difficulties. Teams need to reduce debts and balance their accounts, but also can´t afford the more demanding salary expectations of most talented players.
The improvement of Spanish players’ technical skills, along with the marketing resulting from great success of both National Team and footballers that left Spain recently –such as Silva, Michu, Cazorla or Mata- are also among the reasons for this proliferation of La Liga players all over the world.
The export figures of ‘Spanish Football” designation of origin, with 223 players spread globally during season 2013-14 –which are yet far from those of traditional exporters such as Brazil (843) and Argentina (459)- open up the question on whether La Liga is potentially losing competitiveness.
We will only have the answer later down the road, when with analize the results of Spanish teams in international tournaments (assuming that National Team will still be strong regardless of the leagues where its players are participating). For the time being, Spanish La Liga is the tournament with highest percentage of national players (59,8%) among top European leagues, which means that the challenge will be to keep on being competitive with players staying, along with those recruited by the best scouters and football directors of Spanish football.