According to a recent study by the International Centre for Sports Studies (or CIES according to its initials in French) analyzing the origins of imported footballers, Nigeria is the African country that exports the most players to other overseas leagues. According to the report, 292 Nigerians are playing in foreign leagues, 84% of that number in Europe. Nigeria is represented by the likes of Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vincent Enyeama among others in Europe. The country also has a sizable amount of footballers playing in the Chinese Super League. Nigeria finished ninth overall in the world when it comes to exporting footballers, trailing the likes of Brazil, France, Argentina, Serbia and England, who comprised the top five. Interestingly enough, despite Argentina more than doubling Nigeria’s number of exported footballers, they are almost equal when it comes to the number of their representatives in UEFA countries.
As for other African countries who send players overseas, Ghana finished in second place, and 13th overall, with 236 players playing in foreign leagues. Examples include Kevin-Prince Boateng in Spain’s Canary Islands, Sulley Muntari in Italy and Jonathan Mesnah in the United States. Senegal is in third place among African countries and in a tie with Slovakia for 17th overall with 176 players plying their trade elsewhere. Keita Balde in Italy is the prime example of Senegalese exports. Cameroon finished in fourth place for the African continent and 19th overall with 174 players playing in other countries. France is the destination for the majority of Cameroonian exports, although they are spread out as far as Canada and Slovakia. The Ivory Coast, despite its smaller area among the continent, finishes in fifth among African nations and 21st overall with 163 exported players. Big names from the Ivory Coast include Yaya Toure in England and Salomon Kalou in Germany.