Far more players from Brazil go abroad to play football than from any other country in the world. It's a football-mad nation and Brazilians seem to pop up in leagues just about everywhere as they look to make their dreams come true.

The latest fascinating study from the CIES Football Observatory has analysed 'expatriate' footballers, those who are registered with clubs not in their own national association, across 137 leagues from 93 countries around the world.

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As of 1st May 2017, there were 1,202 Brazilian footballers plying their trade outside Brazil. That's well over 400 more playing abroad than France (781 expatriate players), the next highest exporter of professional footballers, and Argentina (753 expatriate players).

Significantly more than half of the Brazilians playing abroad are currently with clubs in Europe, 65% to be precise. The single highest concentration is in Portugal where there are 221 Brazilian players, while 71 in Italy and 54 in Japan.

There are also a further 89 Brazilians combined playing in Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong. As many as 46 are currently playing in Turkey and 43 are playing in Spain.

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When it comes to France, the vast majority of French expatriate players stay within Europe - only 14% of the 781 have ventured further the edge of the UEFA continent. The highest concentration of French players is in England where 107 currently reside. Neighbouring Belgium (83) is another popular destination, while 64 Frenchman are playing in Luxembourg.

As for Argentina, many of their 753 expatriate players stay in the Americas. Only 37% are to be found in Europe right now, with Chile the most popular foreign country where 106 Argentines are registered. Mexico is close behind with 97 players from Argentina.


Beyond the top three, Serbia is a surprisingly high exporter of footballers. As many as 460 Serbians are flying the flag on foreign pitches in countries like neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, as well as elsewhere in eastern Europe. Currently, 22 Serbian players have made it as far as Italy, while there are 17 in Belgium and 15 in Spain.

England isn't a country with an obvious reputation for sending footballers abroad, but 451 players are currently with clubs not under the jurisdiction of the English FA. That number is perhaps less striking, however, when considering that 143 are playing in Wales and 114 are in Scotland (like Patrick Roberts with Celtic, below).

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A further 30 Englishman are playing for clubs in Ireland, both north and south of the border. But the United States has proven a popular destination, with 50 English players currently across the pond, while other countries where English is the first language or is at least widely spoken, account for most of the rest.

New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway have 46 English players between them. There are currently six English players plying their trade in Spain.

Top 25 Exporters of Footballers:

​CountryNumber of Expatriates​% Playing in Europe​
​Ivory Coast163​79%​
Bosnia & Herzegovina​158​98%​
Republic of Ireland​140​87%​

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