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"Players are getting older, taller and faster" - says Swiss report

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By Mike Collett

LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters)

- European footballers are on average playing at the top level until they are older, growing taller and running faster, according to a study of football across the continent published on Wednesday.

The survey, of more than 13,000 players at 534 clubs across 36 leagues by the Swiss-based Professional Football Players Observatory (PFPO), also shows:

* Barcelona have, on average, the shortest team in Europe
* Manchester United have the most stable squad
* European champions Inter Milan have the oldest squad
* Tottenham Hotspur have more active internationals than any other club on the continent

Raffaele Poli, one of the study's co-authors based at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, has been compiling data on European footballers since 2005 and said some trends have emerged since the first report was published three years ago.

"We are seeing that players in the top leagues are becoming older, faster and are getting taller," he told Reuters.

"In general too, more than 45.7 per cent move internationally during their career but players playing at the club where they developed has fallen from 26 per cent three years ago to 23.4 per cent.

"There is also an increasing internationalisation of European soccer with less players -- 23 per cent compared to 26 per cent three years ago -- staying at the club or in the country where they developed."


Barcelona, widely tipped to win both the Spanish and Champions Leagues this season, is on average the shortest team in Europe with an average height of 1.77 metres (5ft 9ins), while the tallest sides are SV Mattersburg of Austria and Volyn Lutsk of Ukraine at 1.86m (6ft 1ins).
United's squad is the most stable with the average player staying 5.71 years, compared to the "newest" team in Europe, Olympiakos Nicosia of Cyprus who signed 95 per cent of their players during 2010.

Olymnpiakos also have the greatest number of expatriates appearing for them: 85 per cent.
European champions Inter Milan could prove that experience counts for something as their average age is 29.6 years, compared to Europe's youngest team, JFK Olimps Riga of Latvia, whose average age is 19.02 years.

Tottenham could field two teams of active internationals -- they have 23 on their books, more than any other club in Europe -- while Ajax Amsterdam have produced more players appearing in Europe's top leagues than any other club (54).


More home-grown play in Iceland (50 per cent) than anywhere else while the Portuguese League has just 6 percent of players who represent the club where they started, the lowest in Europe.

According to the survey, the average European team has 24.5 players in its squad, of which 5.2 are aged 21 or under, 8.1 are 1.85m or taller, 5.7 are club trained, while 8.2 are overseas players of whom 1.1 per cent are Brazilian.

But while all these figures are revealing -- and there are more than 80 pages of facts just like this available on the study's website (www.eurofootballplayers.ora/publications) -- do they have a practical application?

"They do," says Poli. "Many clubs including Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Lille, Manchester City all take the report, study the trends, use it as a benchmark to see what their rivals are doing.

"The governing bodies also look closely at the figures which show very accurately the changes in European football and emerging trends which clubs are now increasingly using to make some of their key decisions."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)
(Additional reporting by Pedro Redig in London)
To comment on this story email [email protected])
Apr 6, 2010
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Well the population as a whole is getting taller each generation, and the science/medicine surrounding sports is getting better all the time so it's also expect that players will be able to play for longer. Faster is probably a mix of teams wanting faster players more now, and better training to maintain and increase speed.
Jan 20, 2010
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What Cal. said. The only thing that really surprised me is that Barca have the shortest team with an average height of 1m77? Im not surprised it's barca but 1m77cm on average for the shortest team in the whole of Europe? That still seems a high average to me, I'm only 1m74cm myself. And they have messi in their team and he's only 1m20 or something ^^)