We all know that when the World Cup comes around, we should put our club allegiances and petty rivalries aside and take up brand new petty international rivalries. All the same, I thought it would be interesting to see which national leagues have the most players, and which club's supporters will have the most players to cheer on.
Top of the list is the Premier League. Reports of it's demise are obviously premature, as they are sending 117 players to the competition. Chelsea and Liverpool both have 12, Arsenal have 10 and Spurs 9. Somewhat surprsingly, to me anyway, is that Portsmouth (8), Everton and Man City (both 7) rank ahead of Man Utd. Of course, Portsmouth's big clearout won't happen until after the World Cup, but perhaps United don't have quite the squad they used to.
The next largest contingent is Germany with 84. The Bundessliga is very healthy at the moment, with the highest average attendance of any professional football league and is a fairly competitive league, although Bayern Munich have won it six times in the past ten years. Unsurprisingly, then, they have the largest group with 11, with Wolfsburg on 9, Stuttgart with 7 and Leverkusen and Bremen with 6.
Italy are in third place with 80. Champion's League winners Inter have 10 players, Juventus 9, Milan and Udinese 8 and Roma 6 and a host of others on 5 or less. It's quite an even spread for Serie A considering Inter's domination over the past few years.
La Primera Liga are only sending 59 to the world Cup, substantially less than the other three big leagues, and the players are very concentrated, highlighting the top heavy nature of the league. Barca have 13, Real Madrid 10, Valencia 7 and Sevilla 6.
The French leagues have 45 players who are pretty evenly spread with Lyon (6), Marseille and Valenciennes (both 5) having the most. The Dutch league has only 34 World cup players, and Ajax has the lions share with 10. Twente send 7 after their brilliant run to th title this season. Does this mean that Steve McClaren is a great coach or that his players were better than advertised? Maybe both, but in any case he's off to Wolfsburg and their 9 strong contingent.
After that it's mostly domestic leagues from the smaller nations, with Japan sending 25, Mexico 21, North Korea 20, Portugal 20, and South Korea 18. The Brazilian league looks particularly poor here sending fewer players (6) than the Scottish (10).
This little exercise really shows how concentrated the money is in football today. The top 5 leagues account for over half the players involved. It's not inevitable, but given how large the mass effect of TV rights is, it looks like the pool of World Cup players will be drawn to the big leagues even more in the future. Good for us, as we'll see them on the telly, but the smaller leagues will really feel the pinch.
Finally, only three teams could field full World Cup teams; Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool. Barca's is the closest to their actual starting XI with Ibrahimovic in place of Pedro, although some would say they're stronger without him. Henry is a sub. Bayern are forced to play a top heavy 3-5-2, and neither Klose nor Gomez played that much for them this year. Liverpool's is the weirdest with Babel and Rodriguez in the team, and Carragher at left back, although I think I remember him filling in there a few years ago. It's safe to say that this was not Benitez's first choice team, but they're in the World Cup and Benitez is out of a job, at least until he walks into the loving embrace of Massimo Moratti.
Teams are below. Click to enlarge.