Talent Exporter! Which country has the most football players playing abroad?

According to research conducted by the CIES Football Observatory group, Brazil have the largest number of footballers playing overseas.
2022-06-03 14:15:15

According to research conducted by the CIES Football Observatory group, Brazil have the largest number of footballers playing overseas.

According to the CIES Football Observatory (Center for International Sport Studies) in Switzerland, Brazil is the world’s top exporter of football players. On May 9, the research went online.

There are 1,219 players playing away from home in the nation. What is the most popular destination for them? Portugal has a 19 percent share of the market. With 978 sportsmen playing abroad, France won the silver medal, followed by Argentina with 815 players. The primary destinations in the second and third positions in the list, respectively, are Luxembourg (12.6 percent) and Chile (15.6%).

If we look at the data since 2017, France have enjoyed the greatest growth in the number of athletes playing overseas, going from 770 to 978, a 27 percent increase. The Netherlands came in second with 137 athletes, while Colombia came in third (124). Serbia (-69), Romania (-46) and South Korea (-43) witnessed the highest reductions, as their players stayed more “at home” and played for their native country.

When it comes to confederations, UEFA (Europe) has the most players playing outside of their home nations (27.3%), followed by Concacaf (Central and North America) (25.1%), and the AFC (Asia) (16.7%).

South America (CONMEBOL) is the continent where the majority of players reside and work, with just 9.2% of expatriates present as of May 1st. In comparison to 2017, this figure reflects a 1.2 percent rise. 

The ranking of the most exporting countries in football 

Check out the list below to see which nations have the most export players, where these athletes go the most, and a comparison to the last research of this kind.



Number of players away

main destination

Comparison with 2017

1 Brazil 1.219 Portugal (19%) Increase of 4%
2 Françe 978 Luxembourg (12.6%) Increase of 27%
3 Argentina 815 Chile (15.6%) Increase of 6%
4 England 525 Scotland (27.8%) Increase of 25%
5 Germany 441 Turkey (18.8%) Increase of 31%
6 Colombia 425 Mexico (8.9%) Increase of 41%
7 Spain 409 England (9.3%) Increase of 14%
8 Croatia 400 Slovenia (25.5%) Increase of 25%
9 Serbia 379 Hungary (6.9%) Increase of  15%
10 Netherlands 367 England (10.1%) Increase of 60%
11 Uruguay 340 Argentina (15.9%) Increase of 13%
12 Nigeria 339 Turkey (6.8%) Increase of 21%
13 Portugal 300 England (10.3%) Increase of 28%
14 Ghana 293 USA (7.9%) Increase of 30%
15 Belgium 267 Netherlands (29.6%) Increase of 26%
16 Denmark 215 Norway (14.9%) Increase of 43%
17 Costa do Marfim 208 Belgium (8.7%) Increase of 29%
18 Sweden 205 Denmark (14.2%) Increase of 25%
19 Senegal 192 Françe (25.5%) Increase of 10%
20 Ukraine 186 Hungary (12.9%) Increase of 1%

Surprisingly, Serbia, which has 379 athletes outside their nation and a 15% loss in “exports” compared to the previous survey, were the only nation to have a decrease among the top 20 countries that most export players overseas as compared to 2017.

By far the largest rise in the number of athletes shipped overseas came from the Netherlands, with a 60 percent increase in players compared to the 2017 survey. 

Brazilian players in Portugal

As a result, for Brazilian players who want to try their luck overseas, Portugal is the favourite destination. Check out which Brazilian players are now donning the shirts of the three major teams in “Terrinha” to get an idea of who these sportsmen are.

  • Benfica: Helton Leite, Lucas Veríssimo, Gilberto and Everton “Cebolinha”;
  • Port: Wendell, Pepê, Galeno and Evanilson;
  • Sporting: Matheus Reis, Matheus Nunes and Bruno Tabata.