Ajax, with 22 of the club’s alumni scattered across the Big-5, is one ahead of Benfica who are in turn one ahead of Austria’s RB Salzburg, according to data from the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) Football Observatory based in Switzerland.
In the top fifteen positions are three Belgian teams (KRC Genk, RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge KV), two further Portuguese clubs (Sporting and FC Porto), another Dutch club (PSV Eindhoven), as well Swiss (FC Basel), Croatian (Dinamo Zagreb) and Danish (FC København) sides. The B-teams of Real Madrid (4th) and FC Barcelona (11th) also figure high in the rankings.
The first non-European team is Boca Juniors, Argentina (15th) whilst Leeds United, with eight players, are the highest ranked English club in 17th place.
Recruitment from a non-big-5 league team is the most common way of entering the five major European leagues (48 percent) followed by advancement from the youth academy or the B-team of a big-5 league club (39 percent).
The latest Benfica player to be targeted is defender Rúben Dias who is wanted by Barcelona and Manchester City despite the €100 million release clause in his contract. Rúben Dias has a long-term contract until the summer of 2024 at Benfica but Jorge Mendes has reportedly offered his services to Barcelona.
Last year Mendes was instrumental in arranging the transfer of João Felix from Benfica to Atletico Madrid for a reported transfer fee of €127 million which is said to have earned Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent and close confidant a cool €36 million.
Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira’s is determined to resist selling his star players for low fees this year given the economic impact that will continue to hit football due to the coronavirus crisis.
In England the Premier League and FA are ‘in dispute’ over the number of foreign and home grown players allowed in first-team squads as football prepares for life post-Brexit. The Premier League wants fourteen home grown in a 25-man squad, whilst the Football Association want at least seventeen.
An agreement appears to have been reached over the need for overseas players to require a green card to complete a transfer into the UK. Their success on obtaining a card will rely on the number of full international caps they have along with the quality of league he is transferring from and the level of competition he has played in.
A player who plays in one of Europe’s major leagues such as La Liga, Bundesliga or Serie A and has competition experience, such as Champions League, would have the highest chance of getting a green card. The player’s nationality would not affect their chances of completing a transfer into the UK, as the organisations want the focus to be on the quality of the import.
The FA approve of this idea - as it allows home grown talents to have more chance making it in senior football - as young foreign talents would be less likely to obtain a green card for a transfer. Whereas before, any player with an EU passport was eligible for a transfer into the UK.