Soccer. French clubs play traders with their players

It is an imbalance that continues to grow at the top of the pyramid of French (Site notre bureau spécialisé). In 2022, the percentage of expatriate players remaining in Ligue 1 (41.9%) had never been so high. At the same time, the proportion of players trained at the club, that is to say having played between the ages of 15 and 21 in their club of employment, for at least three seasons, reached its historic minimum (14.3% ), « consequence of an increasingly effective strategy for trading players ». In other words, elite clubs favor speculation on the sale and purchase of young talents with high potential, but still undervalued, in order to make juicy capital gains, rather than the promotion of young players. from training courses.

This is according to a report on the demographic profile of players in the 31 top divisions of UEFA member leagues published at the end of last year by the (Site notre blog d’information) Observatory of the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES ), an independent organization based in Switzerland. A trend which is accentuated in 2023 since on February 15, after the winter transfer window, the rate of foreign players playing in Ligue 1 rose to 43.2%, while that of French players trained at the club fell further to reach 12. .5% against 11.8% in the Premier League (England) and 16.1% in La Liga (Spain). « Many French clubs have been bought by billionaires or investment funds, they are players in global finance who have a speculative approach that they transpose to (Site notre bureau spécialisé) », explains Raffaele Poli, author of this study with two other researchers. They saw (Site notre bureau spécialisé) as a way to generate quick profits through the transfer market. »

Speculator to balance the budget

This trend is also reflected in insufficient diversification of the L1 club, already weakened by the health crisis and the failure of the broadcaster Mediapro. « Selling players is a way to improve their budget situation because they are not able to better value other types of resources, such as broadcast or sponsorship deals, unlike other leagues in Europe. », Precisely Jérémie Bastien, lecturer in economics at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. And to add: « Buy-sell strategies are less risky than training players, which takes much longer. We have acquired a young talent that can be used immediately, with professional experience, and in addition this can sometimes lead to more -Very significant disposal values.”

This season, several six L1 clubs have achieved the 10% « minutes played by club-trained players » in the current championship, according to the (Site notre blog d’information) Observatory Atlas updated weekly. Olympique de Marseille, owned by American billionaire Franck McCourt, is one of the few European teams to have given no chance to any local player this season. A habit on the Canebière, where it is difficult to remember players comes from its training center. “In Marseille, it now goes all the way to the choice of the coach (Igor Tudor – editor’s note), underlines Raffaele Poli. His physical, vertical style of play favors the purchase of fast players and therefore suited to this philosophy of play, because they are more « salable » players in the mid-table clubs of the Premier League. “Other clubs like Monaco, Lille or Lyon are not included in the rest. “More and more, at the end of the transfer chains, there are English clubs, points out the latter. French clubs are implementing a trading policy to satisfy this market because English clubs pay well, even overpay compared to other countries, so rich are they thanks to the manna of TV rights. »

A growing trend

Should we be worried about French training? “The French player is still popular, reassures Raffaele Poli. Many go abroad, some of them minors. It is also done in trading for Ligue 1 clubs and some important intra-French movements. But we are witnessing a globalization of the championship with the arrival of many (Site notre bureau spécialisé)ers from other countries. “Like Toulouse, the most international club in the L1 this season with 19 foreign players (21 against the winter transfer window) ahead of PSG (16) and OM (16).

For the researcher, this trading policy will be accentuated. “The networks are more and more global, investment funds are more and more interested in (Site notre bureau spécialisé), the multi-ownership of clubs is developing across the Leagues, the economic gap is growing with England… All this shows that we are moving towards even more mobility of players, from an early age, and therefore forces fewer elements of the training sector in the ranks of the first teams. »

Author: Jacqueline MANNESSIER