Premier League leads importers' chart

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The Independent Online

Six of European football's top 10 importers were teams playing in the Barclays Premier League last season.

As the debate over the effects of overseas signings on home-grown talent rumbles on in the wake of England's intensely disappointing World Cup finals campaign, statistics released by the Professional Football Players Observatory reveal that English and German clubs relied most heavily on foreign imports.

The observatory's annual review of the European football players' labour market places Arsenal at the top of the list with 93.3 per cent of players having grown up outside England, slightly ahead of Inter Milan on 92.2 per cent.

Blackburn (80.3 per cent) and Liverpool (77.7 per cent) in third and fourth respectively are divided from sixth-placed Wigan (75.1 per cent) and Chelsea (72.2) in eighth by Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach, while Manchester City (68.8 per cent) completed the top 10 behind German side FC Koln.

The figures cover Europe's five biggest leagues - the top divisions in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain - and show that on average, at least a third of every English team's players grew up elsewhere.

The report says: "With the exception of Inter, the 10 teams having fielded the most expatriate players are English and German.

"No club of these countries figures in the last 10 places of the ranking.

"All the English teams have on average played with at least one-third of footballers having grown up outside of England.

"In France, expatriates have played a majority of minutes in only two teams. Among the 34 clubs where this threshold was exceeded, we find 13 English and 11 German teams."

Relegated Burnley (33.2 per cent) fielded the most home-grown players in the Premier League, but Spaniards Athletic Bilbao - who have a Basque-only policy - did not use a single foreigner and Barcelona came in at 48.7 per cent.

The report also looks at the average age of players with Europa League finalists Fulham (29.3) second only to AC Milan (29.62) in terms of oldest players.

Chelsea (28.83) and Stoke (28.63) are the only other English sides to make the top 10, in eighth and 10th places respectively.

But Italian clubs figure heavily with Chievo, Inter, Bologna, Roma and Juventus accompanying Milan.

Sunderland boasted England's youngest squad at an average age of 25.43 with Arsenal and Tottenham their closest rivals.

French side Toulouse were the youngest in the five leagues at 24.05.

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