By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
28 March 2011
Neymar is 19 and hails from Pele’s old club Santos, and Lucas is 18 and plays for Sao Paulo, whose alumni include Kaka.
Both shone against Scotland at the Emirates on Sunday and when – not if – they come to Europe, and possibly to England, they will be joining one of the great migratory trends of recent years.
Brazilian footballers now make up the single largest group of ‘foreign’ players within Europe’s borders, with foreign defined as a nationality other than that of the country in which they are playing.
There were 577 Brazilians in the top divisions of the 36 major footballing nations in Europe at the start of this season.
That was more than double the number of the second-biggest exporting nation, France, with 261 Frenchman playing outside France but within Europe.
Next-biggest contributors of foreign players were Argentina (233 players across Europe), Serbia (213 outside Serbia) Portugal (124 outside Portugal), Nigeria (115), Slovakia (106 outside), Croatia (105 outside), Germany (104 outside) and Spain (100 away from Spain).
This data is according to the Demographic Study of Footballers in Europe 2011, produced primarily by our friends at the Professional Football Players Observatory, based at the International Centre for Sports Studies in Switzerland.
A snapshot of Brazilian influence in Europe is in the graphic below.
Which nation provided more players in the group stages of the Champions League this season than any other? Brazil – with 78.
Next came France (65), then Spain (49) with Argentina, Germany, Italian, the Netherlands, Portugal and England all trailing.
Other recent trends in Brazilian migration include more players heading east into Russia, Ukraine and into the former Soviet ‘stans’, from Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan.