Football (or soccer as some like to call it) may not be the most popular sport in all parts of the world, but it is safe to say that it’s the most universally loved game on the planet. While ‘the beautiful game’ is particularly popular across Europe and in Latin America, it has followers in every corner of the planet with billions of people following major events such as the FIFA World Cup, which is about to kick off in Russia on June 14.
Being the global game that it is, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the search for the biggest talents of the sport has developed into an international egg hunt with clubs and agents alike trying to find the next Messi before anyone else does, and millions of players dreaming of making a living playing football. The dream of “making it” in football often involves moving abroad as local leagues, particularly in lower-income countries, do not offer nearly the same opportunities as European leagues do, both in terms of wages and international recognition.
According to a recent study conducted by the CIES Football Observatory
, 24.9 percent of all players playing at professional adult level across Europe are expatriates, compared to 21.2 percent at the global level. As the following chart illustrates, Brazil has the largest footballing diaspora with more than 1,200 Brazilians playing professionally outside of their home country. Unsurprisingly, Portugal is the number 1 destination for Brazilian players as it allows them to make the move to Europe without having to deal with the language barrier as an additional challenge.