European soccer shapes to have some World Cup winners with 73% of players at the tournament coming from clubs in the sport’s richest continent.
That’s despite Europe providing just 40% of the World Cup teams with 13 qualifying slots in the 32-nation lineup in Qatar.
Bayern Munich is the best represented club with 17 players selected for the World Cup, with Barcelona and Manchester City each having 16, according to research published this week by European soccer consultants LTT Sports.
Just 27% of more than 830 players selected for World Cup duty play with clubs in other continents, LTT Sports said. Qatari club Al Sadd has 15 players at the tournament that starts Sunday.
That total is slightly up on the 26% figure at the 2018 World Cup where each of the 32 squads had 23 players instead of the current 26. FIFA allowed three extra players in squads named because of the effects of disruption and fixture congestion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outside Europe, the United States and Saudi Arabia were tied for the countries whose clubs have supplied the most World Cup players. Each has 35 in squads that had to be notified to FIFA by a Monday deadline.
European clubs have the wealth and lure of playing in competitions like the Champions League to ensure employing most of the best non-European talent. The overseas players have helped to raise standards in Europe whose national teams have won the past four World Cup titles: defending champion France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi has played his entire professional career in Europe; Sadio Mané moved from Senegal as a teenager; and Neymar left Brazil at age 21 before he played at a World Cup.
Argentina is leaning heavily on the top-five European leagues by calling up 23 players, including Messi from Paris Saint-Germain, from clubs in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.
The concentration of talent is such that 70 players were selected for the World Cup from Italian clubs, according to LTT’s research, even though the national team did not qualify.
The second-tier English Championship has 29 players selected, though none for England.
The World Cup means home comforts for the seven players selected for countries other than Qatar who play for clubs in the host nation. GRAHAM DUNBAR, GENEVA, MDT/AP