Desna (Ukraine) and Atletic Bilbao (Spain) the only teams in Europe without foreigners

Zlatko Ilijevski
18 Oct 2021
Desna (Ukraine) and Atletic Bilbao (Spain) the only teams in Europe without foreigners

A new interesting research is brought by the Football Observatory (CIES), and this time the topic was the number of foreign players on the field in the 31 strongest leagues in the world and the clubs in them.

There are countries that do not have a limit on the number of foreigners in the teams, and many clubs use it abundantly, while some countries mostly in Europe like in Serbia, the limit of a maximum of four is still in force at the same time on the field. This kind of politic is mostly used in the smaller countries with unattractive leagues where they want to stimulate their own young players to improve.

When it comes to Europe, the club that uses foreigners the most is the Greek Aris. It sounds incredible, but as much as 98.4 percent of the time in the game was spent by players from abroad! For example, in the last game against Apollo from Smyrna, Delizisis was the starter, and Manos came in from the bench, and they are the only two Greeks who played in that match.

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Aris is followed by three clubs from Cyprus: Paphos (91.4%), AEL Limassol (90.5%) and Aris Limassol (89.5%). Then there is the Greek Volos (89.3%), and then one big name in world football - Glasgow Rangers, to whom 88.1 percent of the time on the field is spent by players from outside Scotland.

When it comes to the best five leagues in Europe, Udinese is the one that forces foreign players the most - exactly 88 percent of the time. Then comes Chelsea (86.8%), then Atalanta (86.3%). The French have the most "earners" in the Lille (81.9%), in Spain it is Atletico Madrid (77.8%), and the Germans have Red Bull Leipzig (79.1%).

There is another side of the coin: two clubs in Europe have not had a single foreign player on the field so far! One is, as expected, Athletic Bilbao, and the other is the Ukrainian first league team Desna. Three more Ukrainian clubs are at the very top on the list of least used foreign players: Rukh (0.8%), Veres-Rivne (1.2%) and Mariupol (1.5%).

Cantera. A word you may not have heard, but you know all about it. It marks the policy of Athletic Bilbao, a club where foreigners are not allowed to play. Or, let’s be more precise, where every Athletic player must be born in the Basque Country (seven regions, four of which are in France and one in Pamplona) or must spend the entire junior internship in the Basque Country. A club that some admire, some despise. Those who admire him will say that nowadays Russian oligarchs and petrodollars are the only ones who do not buy foreigners. Those who despise it will say it is chauvinism. And discrimination. In any case, Bilbao lives a separate life from the rest of football principles. Athletic is traditionally the richest Basque club which allows it to buy talented players from neighboring clubs such as Sociedad, Osasuna, Eibar, Alaves .... Sociedad pursued a similar policy, however, was forced to abandon it precisely because of Athletic's takeover of their players.

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The less known team from Ukraine FC Desna Chernihiv is trying to implement Bilbao’s policy in much harder conditions in Ukrainian league where every talented player is contracted to Shakhtar or Dynamo Kiev from young age. So far they are doing well now they are regular members of the first league and their squad is composed from players only from Ukraine.

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