Category Archives: Players

Nationality of players in the Premier League and Football League

The nationality of players within the Premier League and Football League is a subject I regularly return to. It’s not because I’m a believer that foreign players are a blight on our national sport, but because I find the exotic nature of the nationalities represented an interesting discussion point. If you believe that the English national side suffers due to the number of foreign players in its league you should probably look closer to home for the players who are blocking the way of Englishmen as it’s Irishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen who make up the vast majority of “foreign” players on English clubs’ books.

  • 53/92 clubs have fielded Welshmen in the league this season.
  • 64/92 clubs have fielded Scotsmen in the league this season.
  • 69/92 clubs have fielded Irishmen in the league this season.
  • 39/92 clubs have fielded Northern Irishmen in the league this season.

There are only three clubs who have not fielded Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen or Northern Irishmen this season in the Premier League or Football League. These three clubs are Chelsea, Manchester City and (perhaps surprisingly) Hartlepool United. The north-eastern club are an interesting case when it comes to player nationality as they are the only club of the 92 who have fielded only Englishmen this season. Twenty-two Englishmen to be exact. And coincidentally the same number as would be required to play a game of cricket on a village green on a balmy summer’s afternoon.

Despite Hartlepool United’s commitment to the English cause, it’s Wimbledon who can claim to have fielded the most Englishmen during the current 2012/2013 season. A total of thirty different English players have pulled on the blue of Wimbledon in an attempt to help the London club retain their Football League status so far this season. Though it’s perhaps worth mentioning that this statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, as few clubs have fielded as many players as Wimbledon (38).

In stark contrast to their north-eastern, all-English neighbours Hartlepool (whose residents once hanged a monkey on suspicion that he were a French spy), Newcastle United have fielded eight different Frenchmen in league fixtures this season. No other club in the Premier League or Football League has fielded as many of the same non-English nationality as that. Blackpool come close having fielded seven Scotsmen in their Championship campaign so far, whilst Coventry City (6 Irish), Arsenal (5 French), Blackburn (5 Portuguese), Brighton (5 Spaniards), Crystal Palace (5 Welshmen) and Oldham Athletic (4 Australians) all provide interesting clusters of nationalities.

When it comes to clubs who have fielded very few English  players it’s Wigan Athletic of the Premier League who take this title by some distance. During their current league season they have been represented by only three Englishmen with Wigan boss Martinez seemingly preferring players from hisanophone countries such as Honduras (2), Chile (2), Argentina (2), Paraguay (1) and Spain (4). During the current season the Latics have fielded and incredible fifteen different nationalities. However, they are not the most eclectic and international group of players in the Premier League.


The most nationalities fielded by any club of the 92 is Martin Jol’s Fulham. They have fielded players from eighteen different countries during the current 2012/2013 Premier League season (England, Switzerland, Norway, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Mali, Greece, Bulgaria, Colombia, Turkey, Croatia, Sweden, Iran, Costa Rica, Belgium and Holland). Clubs outside the top flight who have used a lot of different nationalities include Watford (who have bulked up their squad with loanees from Spain and Italy) and Blackburn Rovers (who are currently battling to recover from a dreadful chicken induced Premier League coma), both sides have fielded players of thirteen different nationalities in league fixtures so far this season.


The impact of British Isles players on the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs is pretty evident when trawling through the statistics. Of the 92 there are twelve clubs who have fielded at least one player from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this season. Those clubs are Wycombe Wanderers, Rotherham, Southend United, Barnsley, Bristol Rovers, Crewe Alexandra, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Doncaster Rovers, Aston Villa, Hull City and West Brom.

Ninety-eight different nationalities have been represented so far this season, they are:

Africa: Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Congo DR, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Asia/Oceania: Australia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Korea Republic, New Zealand, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Macedonia FYR, Montenegro, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales.
North America/Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago and United States.
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.



Posted by on February 24, 2013 in International, Players


Lionel Messi wins fourth Ballon d’Or

It’s hard to disagree with Barbadian journalist Ezra Stewart. When offered the chance to vote for his top three players in the world in 2012 he simply scribbled down one name: Lionel Messi, leaving the spaces for second and third places blank. Whether this was an administrative oversight or a deliberate statement it’s hard to tell, but there’s a particular truth in how he voted.

Lionel Messi not only makes football look like a simple game, he also makes winning awards look easy. Of the 500+ journalists, coaches and national team captains polled in the Ballon d’Or voting process over 60% voted for Messi as their top choice with only 17% opting for Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pie chart that shows Messi's dominance of the 1st place vote share.

Lionel Messi’s dominance is clear.

If you just take into account those people who chose either Messi or Ronaldo as their first choice you’ll notice a couple of interesting facts when you break up the voting data by continent. It’s unsurprising that Messi was voted for in such numbers in his native South America, but this has hit Ronaldo’s vote very hard. In the COMNEBOL region the Portuguese international only gained 4% of the vote, whereas world-wide he gained 17%. It’s worth noting at this point that the only South American to vote for Ronaldo as their choice for the Balloon d’Or was the Brazilian coach!

Messi vs Ronaldo per continent

Messi vs Ronaldo per continent

Whilst Messi is celebrated in his home continent, the same cannot be said of Ronaldo who gained 17% of the first place vote in Europe – the same figure he gained world-wide. It’s also unsurprising to see that of Didier Drogba’s ten first place nominations, seven of them came from Africa.


Twenty-three different players were nominated for the Ballon d’Or this year. Of them seventeen were voted into positions one, two and three by different coaches, journalists or captains. Coincidentally Karim Benzama (a player with Algerian descent) was voted 1st by Algerian captain Madjid Bougherra giving the whole contest a Eurovision feel. But make no mistake, 2012 was Messi’s year and it’d take a brave man to bet against him in 2013.

Positions each player was voted into

Positions each player was voted into


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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Players


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Foreign players in the top five European Leagues

I’m a big fan of word clouds as a data visualisation tool. The following five word clouds illustrate the number of foreign nationals that have played in each of the five “top” European leagues (England, Italy, Spain, Germany & France) during the current 2011/2012 season. If you want to see more click on each image for an enlarged version.

Premier League - nationalities represented

Premier League - nationalities represented

Serie A - nationalities represented

Serie A - nationalities represented

La Liga - nationalities represented

La Liga - nationalities represented

Bundesliga - nationalities represented

Bundesliga - nationalities represented

Ligue 1 - nationalities represented

Ligue 1 - nationalities represented

Images created using the terrific website:

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Club, European, Players


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The best number thirty-threes in Europe

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a small article selecting the best eleven in Europe who wear the number thirteen shirt. I thought I’d look into this subject further and I believe that if you take the top five leagues in Europe (Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England) that the highest number you can make an eleven from (you need a goalkeeper remember) is 33.

I have to admit at this juncture that I don’t watch an awful lot of European football (I’m not sure any of us can keep up with five leagues at once). The only decision I would like to elaborate on is the decision to pick brothers Lionel and Kurt Zouma who play for Sochaux and Saint Etienne respectively. Both wear number 33.(Andrew Gibney of the peerless French Football Weekly informs me that the number 33 in France is used for footballers who haven’t yet been allocated a squad number)

The best number thirty-threes in Europe

The best number thirty-threes in Europe

Players in the top five leagues who wear number 33. Feel free to pick your own eleven.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Cameron Jerome (Stoke City), Alex (Chelsea), Paul Scharner (West Brom) and Stefan Maierhofer (Wolves)

LIGUE 1: Kurt Zouma (Saint Etienne), Lionel Zouma (Sochaux), Stephane Bahoken (Nice), Marco Dasilva (Valenciennes) and Adama Ba (Brest)

BUNDESLIGA: Tom Starke (Hoffenheim), Heinz Muller (Mainz), Alexander Esswein (Nurnberg), Manuel Schmiedebach (Hannover), Sascha Molders (Augsburg), Patrick Helmes (Wolfsburg) and Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich)

SERIE A: Alexandros Tzorvas (Palermo), Ciro Capuano (Catania), Thiago Silva (Milan) and Juraj Kucka (Genoa)

LA LIGA: Mamadou Kone (Racing Santander)

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Club, European, Players


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French Football League XI 2010/2011

French Football League XI

Between the sticks is the unfortunate Romain Larrieu of Plymouth Argyle, he played eighteen games in an ultimately doomed season for the Pilgrims who were relegated to the fourth tier. Across the back is former Spurs and Wigan fullback Pascal Chimbonda of QPR, Jean-Yves M’voto of Oldham Athletic, Maxime Blanchard of Tranmere Rovers and Stephane Zubar of Plymouth Argyle.

Central midfield is occupied by Forest’s Guy Moussi, Morgan Schneiderlin of promoted Southampton and Marc-Antoine Gbarssin who spent much of the end of last season on loan at Walsall from Carlisle United. Out wide is Leicester winger Dany N’Guessan who had a spell at Southampton on loan and the versatile Romain Vincelot of Dagenham & Redbridge. Up front I have selected FA Cup hero Jonathan Tehoue who stunned Arsenal with a last minute equaliser in the cup for Orient over target-man Mathieu Manset of Reading.

As always, if you have any suggestions of players I have missed out then I’d be happy to hear them.

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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Club, European, Players


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