Nearly three-quarters of footballers at the first World Cup in the Middle East play in European teams.
Of the about 830 footballers at the World Cup in Qatar, 73 percent ply their trade in European clubs, an analysis of squad lists has found.
There are 13 European nations competing in the 32-team tournament that kicks off on Sunday, comprising just 40 percent of the teams taking part in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.
But the biggest clubs in Europe have the star power of playing in glamorous competitions such as the Champions League, which helps to recruit the best non-European talent.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi has played his entire professional career in Europe; Senegal’s Sadio Mané, who was ruled out of the tournament this week due to a leg injury, moved from his country as a teenager; and Neymar left Brazil at age 21, before he played at a World Cup.
The overseas players have helped to raise standards in Europe, whose national teams have won the past four World Cup titles: defending champions France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Germany’s Bayern Munich is the best-represented club, with 17 players selected for World Cup squads. Spain’s Barcelona and England’s Manchester City each have 16, according to research published this week by European football consultants LTT Sports.
Outside of Europe, Qatari champions Al Sadd has 15 players at the tournament, opening on Sunday.
The domestic leagues of the United States and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, each have 35 players called up for World Cup duties with a variety of national squads.
Argentina is leaning heavily on the top five European leagues by calling up 23 international club footballers, including Messi from Paris Saint-Germain, as well as others from clubs in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.
Italian clubs alone are providing 70 players to World Cup squads – even though Italy’s national team did not qualify for the tournament.
The World Cup also means home comforts for the seven players selected for countries other than Qatar who play for clubs in the host nation.