Bilbao and Lyon top big five leagues for home-grown players

The Football Observatory at the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) has published a world ranking of football clubs showing which have fielded the most home-grown players in domestic league matches so far this season. The results make for very interesting reading from the perspective of this website because Athletic Club and Olympique Lyonnais are top of the table as far as Europe’s ‘Big 5’ leagues are concerned.

In fact, Athletic Club are way out ahead of everyone else. That’s in no small part due to their cantera policy of signing only players who were born or trained at youth level in the Basque Country. 68.9% of all their player minutes so far this season have been from club-trained players.

CIES uses the UEFA definition of ‘club-trained’ meaning that a player must have been at the club for at least three years between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. Athletic Club have fielded fourteen players who meet that criteria so far this season: Unai Simón, Vivian, Paredes, Yeray, Imanol, Sancet, Ruiz de Galarreta, Prados, Unai Gómez, Iñaki Williams, Muniain, Nico Williams, Guruzeta and Villalibre.

Olympique Lyonnais may be struggling in Ligue 1 so far this season, but the fact that they’re doing so with a large cohort of home-grown players shows that there’s hope for the future and that the club’s esteemed academy is still regularly feeding into the first team squad. They have used nine ‘club-trained’ players so far this season, for a total of 45.6% of their combined minutes played. That figure puts them just ahead of third placed Real Sociedad in the ranking.

Basques dominating the top spots

The table is yet more proof, if it were ever needed, that the Basque Country is a veritable hotbed of football talent. Not only are Athletic Club and Real Sociedad in the top three, but Osasuna are sixth meaning that clubs from the region occupy half of the top six places. The screenshot below shows the top clubs in the ranking:

CIES ranking of Big 5 league teams by % minutes played by club trained players in 2023-24.
CIES ranking of Big 5 league teams by % minutes played by club trained players in 2023-24.

There’s also encouraging news for Manchester United. They have made the top twenty in the ranking, having fielded five ‘club-trained’ players so for this campaign for 20.4% of their total playing minutes. That puts them second in terms of English Premier League clubs, not far behind Arsenal.

You can find the CIES post with the full statistics here on their excellent website.