Argentina has surpassed Brazil as the world’s largest exporter of soccer players. Argentina sold close to 1,800 players between 2009 and 2010 compared to Brazil’s 1,440, according to Gerardo Molina, an agent for Euroamericas Sports Marketing. But this may not be a good thing for Argentine soccer. The growing exodus of Argentina's best young players is leaving a void in the local game.
“The reality today is that a player is a major asset, bringing in more revenue than television, ticket sales, merchandising, licensing,” said Molina. "In other words, they are the main source of revenue for clubs in Argentina and Brazil. That explains the haste with which they look at which players they can sell at the end of the season to find a way to somehow pay the debts that most Argentine clubs have.”
Argentina's exports have increased because it has system under which clubs and private academies send young players abroad. That and the easing of European club restrictions on foreign players have led to a nearly 800 percent increase in the export of Argentine players in five years. Many are sold by the time they are 15 or 16.
Adrian Domenech, former player and youth director of Argentinos Juniors, says playing in second-tier European leagues instead of the top flight in Argentina was a backward step for many players. “(In) Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, a bunch of teams have taken players because they have economic power, Greece too, and the players have gone for a lot of money, knowing that in terms of soccer it isn’t maybe the best thing for their career."