Almost three-quarters of the football players at the first World Cup in the Middle East will play in European teams.
Of the approximately 830 football players at the World Cup in Qatar, 73 percent practice their profession in European clubs, according to an analysis of selection lists.
There are 13 European countries participating in the 32-team tournament that kicks off on Sunday, with only 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 power of playing in glamorous competitions like the Champions League, helping to attract 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 with a leg injury, moved from his country as a teenager; and Neymar left Brazil at the age of 21, before playing in a World Cup.
The foreign players have helped 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 consultancy LTT Sports.
Outside Europe, Qatari champion Al Sadd has 15 players in the tournament, which starts on Sunday.
The national leagues of the United States and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, have each called up 35 players for World Cup duties with a variety of national selections.
Argentina is leaning heavily on the top five European leagues, 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 contribute 70 players to World Cup squads, even though the Italian national team failed to qualify for the tournament.
The World Cup also means home comfort for the seven players who have been selected for countries other than Qatar and who play for clubs in the host country.