There is nothing that grabs the heart of a football supporter more than watching the local-born youngster come through the youth ranks and eventually become a senior club symbol. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, and Francesco Totti are perfect examples of this. It is also a source of great pride for fans to support a team consisting mainly of players from their own country.
Over the past decade or so, the football world has become more and more international. With the relaxing of EU laws, foreigners have often become a cheaper option, and a quick-fix, and the numbers of homegrown players have dropped dramatically in certain places. England in particular has been singled out as the worst offender, and the failure by the 'Three Lions' to qualify for Euro 2008 was seen by some as a by-product of this so-called outside invasion.
Serie A, usually after suffering in Europe at the hands of their Anglo-rivals, have often complained that the Premier League has lost its soul and identity by building its success around foreigners.
So let’s take a look at the statistics. Below are the number of foreign players who started for their respective teams during the most recent weekend round of Premier League and Serie A matches.
Manchester United: 8 – Van der Sar (Holland), O’Shea (Ireland), Vidic (Serbia), Rafael (Brazil), Giggs (Wales), Ronaldo (Portugal), Berbatov (Bulgaria), Tevez (Argentina)
Liverpool: 10 – Reina, Arbeloa (Spain), Dossena (Italy), Agger (Denmark), Skrtel (Slovakia), Fabio Aurelio (Brazil), Mascherano (Argentina), Benayoun (Israel), N’Gog (France), Babel (Holland)
Aston Villa: 3 – Friedel (USA), Cuellar (Spain), Petrov (Bulgaria)
Chelsea: 8 – Hilario, Bosingwa, Quaresma (Portugal), Alex (Brazil), Mikel (Nigeria), Ballack (Germany), Kalou (Ivory Coast), Anelka (France)
Arsenal: 11 – Almunia (Spain), Clichy, Gallas, Sagna, Nasri (France), Toure, Eboue (Ivory Coast), Song (Cameroon), Denilson (Brazil), Van Persie (Holland), Adebayor (Togo)
Everton 4: Howard (USA), Arteta (Spain), Cahill (Australia), Jo (Brazil)
Wigan Athletic: 7 - Figueroa (Honduras), Scharner (Austria), Melchiot (Holland), N’Zogbia (France), Valencia (Ecuador), Rodallega (Colombia), Mido (Egypt)
West Ham: 6 – Ilunga (Congo), Collins, Collison (Wales), Neill (Australia), Behrami (Switzerland), Di Michele (Italy)
Manchester City: 7 – Given, Ireland (Ireland), Kompany (Belgium), De Jong (Holland), Zabaleta (Argentina), Robinho (Brazil), Bellamy (Wales)
Fulham: 6 – Schwarzer (Australia), Hangeland (Norway), Paintsil (Ghana), Dempsey (USA), Etuhu (Nigeria), Davies (Wales)
Sunderland: 6 – Fulop (Hungary), Collins (Wales), Reid (Ireland), Malbranque, Cisse (France), Jones (Trinidad & Tobago)
Hull City: 5 – Zayatte (Guinea), Ricketts (Wales), Geovanni (Brazil), Kilbane (Ireland), Garcia (Australia)
Newcastle United: 5 – Enrique (Spain), Coloccini (Argentina), Bassong (France), Duff (Ireland), Lovenkrands (Denmark)
Bolton: 5 – Jaaskelainen (Finland), Puygrenier (France), O’Brien (Ireland), Steinsson (Iceland), Makukula (Portugal)
Portsmouth: 4 – Hreidarsson (Iceland), Distin (France), Belhadj (Algeria), Basinas (Greece)
Tottenham: 7 – Cudicini (Italy, Assou Ekotto (Cameroon), Corluka, Modric (Croatia), Palacios (Honduras), Keane (Ireland), Pavluchenko (Russia)
Stoke City: 5 – Sorensen (Denmark), Kelly (Ireland), Faye, Diao (Senegal), Fuller (Jamaica)
Blackburn Rovers 7 – Nelsen (New Zealand), Samba (Congo), Ooijer (Holland), Andrews (Ireland), Grella (Australia), Pedersen (Norway), McCarthy (South Africa)
Middlesbrough: 6 – Jones (Australia), Pogatetz (Austria), Huth (Germany), Digard (France), King (Jamaica), Alfonso Alves (Brazil)
West Brom: 6 – Meite (Ivory Coast), Hoefkens (Belgium), Borja (Spain), Koren (Slovenia), Fortune (France), Kim (South Korea)
Results: 126 of the 220 EPL players were foreign = 57 %
Inter: 10 - Julio Cesar, Maicon, Adriano (Brazil) Samuel, Zanetti, Cambiasso (Argentina), Muntari (Ghana), Chivu (Romania), Stankovic (Serbia); Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
Juventus: 6 - Grygera, Nedved (Czech Republic) Mellberg (Sweden), Poulsen (Denmark), Tiago (Portugal), Amauri (Brazil)
Milan: 6 - Kaladze (Georgia), Jankulovski (Czech Republic) Beckham (England), Seedorf (Holland), Ronaldinho, Pato (Brazil)
Fiorentina: 5 - Frey (France), Vargas (Peru), Kuzmanovic (Serbia), Jovetic (Montenegro), Mutu (Romania)
Genoa: 4 - Rubinho, Thiago Motta (Brazil), Juric (Croatia), Milito (Argentina)
Roma: 5 - Doni, Juan (Brazil), Mexes (France), Pizarro (Chile), Vucinic (Montenegro)
Cagliari: 1 – Jeda (Brazil)
Atalanta: 3 - Garics (Austria), Ferreira Pinto (Brazil), Valdes (Chile)
Palermo: 3 - Kjaer (Denmark), Simplicio (Brazil) Cavani (Uruguay)
Napoli: 5 - Navarro, Datolo, Denis, Lavezzi (Argentina), Gargano (Uruguay)
Lazio: 7 - Muslera (Uruguay) Lichtsteiner (Switzerland), Cribari, Matuzalem (Brazil) Kolarov (Serbia), Dabo (France) Pandev (Macedonia)
Udinese: 5 - Handanovic (Slovenia), Felipe (Brazil) Inler (Switzerland) Obodo (Nigeria) Asamoah (Ghana)
Siena: 4 - Zuniga (Colombia), Brandao (Portugal), Codrea (Romania), Ghezzal (Algeria)
Catania: 5 - Bizarri, Silvestre, Ledesma, Izco (Argentina) Morimoto (Japan)
Sampdoria: 2 - Stankevicius (Lithuania) Padalino (Switzerland)
Bologna: 3 - Britos (Uruguay), Moras (Greece), Mudingayi (Belgium)
Lecce: 4 - Fabiano, Edinho (Brazil), Giacomazzi (Uruguay), Castillo (Argentina)
Torino: 1 - Dzemaili (Switzerland)
Chievo: 4 - Frey (France), Morero (Argentina), Luciano (Brazil), Makinwa (Nigeria)
Reggina: 5 - Valdez (Uruguay), Santos (Brazil), Krajcik (Slovakia), Carmona (Chile), Barreto (Paraguay)
Results: 88 of the 220 Serie A players were foreign = 40%
It must be remembered that these findings do not take into account substitutes, as well as injured, suspended and other squad players. A number of top-class first team stars, such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Giorgio Chiellini and Kaka did not play during these rounds of matches. Nevertheless the statistics are unlikely to have changed all that significantly, had they been on the pitch.
The so-called Big Four in England of Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal certainly over-rely on overseas talent, as just seven of the 44 players (15%) who started these matches were English. The Big Four of Italy (Inter, Milan, Juventus and Roma) provided 17, which still works out at a reasonably low 39%. The worst culprits were Arsenal, Liverpool and Inter, who had just two homegrown players between them – 18-year-old Nerazzurri starlet Davide Santon, and Reds stalwart Jamie Carragher.
As for the tacticians, exactly half of the Premier League teams are managed by foreigners while, in Serie A all but two, Inter’s Jose Mourinho and Bologna’s Sinisa Mihaljovic, are Italian. Noticeably, none of the current top six clubs in England have English bosses.
With the way the world is today, some people will say that the number of foreigners a team or league has is of little relevance. Others, such as UEFA President Michel Platini, argue that it is crucial for traditional reasons, and that England must somehow rediscover its identity.
You have seen the statistics – what are your views on this topic? Is the Premier League full of foreigners, and Serie A more homegrown? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think.