By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
23 January 2012
Clubs in the Russian Premier League, a 16-team division awash with plutocratic ‘new money’, especially from the oil sector, are rapidly closing the gap in quality between themselves and leading clubs from the top divisions in Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, according to an authoritative new report, published today.
The demographic study of Europe’s top divisions has been compiled by the CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland, and is based on detailed analysis of 12,410 footballers at 500 clubs in the top divisions of 33 European countries.
One key finding in this edition of the annual study is the huge surge in the number active full international players plying their trade in the Russian Premier League. It has grown from 11.6 per cent of players in 2009 to 28.6 per cent of players in the 2011-12 season.
Across the whole of Europe, that figure is now bettered only by the English Premier League, where 41.2 per cent of players are active internationals, and by the German Bundesliga, where 33.2 per cent of players are internationals.
An active international is defined as a player registered with a club in October 2011 who had played international football in 2011.
The top divisions in France (25.8 per cent of internationals), Italy (25.1 per cent) and Spain (23 per cent) all now trail Russia.
CIES has compiled a league ranking of each league’s overall strength, based on club performances in Europe over five years as well as the amount of money spent on players (from data provided by the Licensing Unit of Uefa), and has the English Premier League at No1, followed by Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga (top division), France’s Ligue 1, and then the Russian Premier League, ahead of the top divisions in the Netherlands and Portugal.
An extract from the new study can be downloaded from the CIES website; the report is wide-ranging and includes detailed nation-by-nation analysis.
New money has washed through the Russian Premier League in recent years especially – but not only – at the following clubs, listed in order of their current positions in the league so far in the 2011-12 season.
1 Zenit St Petersburg (reigning champions, owned by Gazprom, which bankrolled stars that helped to win the 2008 Uefa Cup).
2 CSKA Moscow (army club, boosted in the Noughties by sponsorship from Roman Abramovich’s Sibneft).
3 Dynamo Moscow (owned by VTB Bank, Russia’s largest bank by capital).
4 Spartak Moscow (owned by oil billionaire Leonid Fedun).
5 Rubin Kazan.
6 Lokomotiv Moscow.
7 Anzhi Makhachkala (owned by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who has hired players including Roberto Carlos, Yuri Zhirkov and Samuel Eto’o).
11 Terek Grozny (owned by the president of Chechnya and former Chechen rebel, Ramzan Kadyrov, who had Ruud Gullit as a coach for a while).
The percentage of active internationals within any given team or league is a key indicator of strength as the following list of the leading clubs – by percentage of internationals – shows.
It contains most of Europe’s accepted ‘major’ clubs; and Celtic at No4 would appear to be the exception that proves the rule.
Highest number of active internationals by team in Europe’s 33 major top divisions
1 Barcelona 81 per cent
2 Manchester City 73.1 per cent
3 Real Madrid 70.8 per cent
4 Celtic 68 per cent
5 Bayern Munich 66.7 per cent
6 Shakhtar Donetsk 64.3 per cent
7 Zenit St Petersburg 64 per cent
8 Chelsea 61.5 per cent
9 Internazionale 59.3 per cent
10 Manchester United 58.6 per cent
11 Arsenal 58.1 per cent
12 Tottenham 57.7 per cent
13= Porto, CSKA Moscow, West Brom 56 per cent
16 Borussia Dortmund 54.2 per cent
17 Liverpool 53.8 per cent
18 Marseille 52.4 per cent
19 Dynamo Kiev 51.9 per cent
20= Everton, Fulham, Galatasaray, VfB Stuttgart 50 per cent