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Examining the domestic paths of every World Cup-winning side since 1930

Written by Will Parchman


The game has globalized, which means the rosters of every World Cup winner in history are reflective of the changing times. With that in mind, Italy’s slavish dedication to its home league is of particular note. Since 1970, when the game began taking on a more global tenor, Italy is the only country to have fielded a World Cup-winning side made up entirely of domestically based club players. And they did it twice, in 1982 and – even more impressively – in 2006.

The Spanish team from 2010 belongs in that discussion as well. Only three players on that team played outside the country, the smallest total aside from Italy since 1978. Each of the first nine World Cup winners stretching across four full decades deployed rosters without a single foreign-based player.

Gunter Netzer deserves his place in history. In 1974, the aging but iconic West Germany midfielder, who was halfway through a three-year stint with Real Madrid at the time, made a 21-minute appearance against East Germany in the group stage to become the first non-domestically based player to ever appear for a World Cup-winning side in the tournament’s history. In fact, he was the first such player to even be included in a title-winning team’s final World Cup roster at all.

Things quieted until Argentina’s appearance in 1986 swung the spotlight onto the changing global landscape in club soccer. By the time the team descended on Mexico, the Argentinians had seven players playing abroad in four different countries. This was not only unprecedented among past winners, but its success smashed the dying preconception that players splintering off from the mother nation’s developmental bosom at the senior level was a death knell to the team’s cohesion. If anything, it echoed the opposite.

Relative global cohesion has continued apace ever since. The 1990 West Germany side is notable in the sense that all five of its non-domestically based players were stationed in Italy, including a young man named Jurgen Klinsmann. And to this day, the team to have used the fewest players from its domestic league? France in 1998 with 10. The current French 23 for Brazil only has eight. Whether or not that’s a good sign, we’ll have to wait and see. Samir Nasri probably doesn’t care.

So how is this quantified? Is there any inherent benefit to having a club team comprised entirely of domestic players? Or should they be looking to play abroad? The easy answer is that it depends. Historically, the club teams on this list are some of the world’s best. There are outliers – Brazil’s Ronaldao played for a J. League side in 1994 – but the overwhelming number played for sides like Inter Milan and Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. And in Italy’s case, the ones who stayed home did so in arguably the best league in the world at the time.

But keep this in mind – every trend is a trend until it isn’t. Before the late 70’s, the global market didn’t particularly value non-domestically based players for myriad reasons. All it takes is one team to break through the din with a new set of metrics and club teams in tow, and the preconceptions start to wobble and we start questioning what we knew again. In all probability, the U.S. will not win the World Cup. But, in eight years, what if a team of hungry MLS-based players does something wild? Then the questions fly. It’s probably not as crazy as it sounds.

Here’s the rundown of each World Cup winner going back to 1930. You’ll see the number of their domestic players and, among those not stationed in-country, where the expats played.

2010 Spain (20 of 23 domestic)
– Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
– Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
– Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

2006 Italy (23 of 23 domestic)

2002 Brazil (13 of 23 domestic)
– Cafu (Roma)
– Lucio (Bayer Leverkusen)
– Roque Junior (Milan)
– Edmilson (Lyon)
– Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)
– Ronaldo (Inter Milan)
– Rivaldo (Barcelona)
– Ronaldinho (PSG)
– Junior (Parma)
– Denilson (Real Betis)

1998 France (10 of 22 domestic)
– Vincent Candela (Roma)
– Bixente Lizarazu (Bayern Munich)
– Patrick Vieira (Arsenal)
– Youri Djorkaeff (Inter Milan)
– Didier Deschamps (Juventus)
– Marcel Desailly (AC Milan)
– Zinedine Zidane (Juventus)
– Alain Boghossian (Sampdoria)
– Lilian Thuram (Parma)
– Emmanuel Petit (Arsenal)
– Frank Leboeuf (Chelsea)
– Christian Karembeu (Real Madrid)

1994 Brazil (11 of 22 domestic)
– Taffarel (Reggiana)
– Jorginho (Bayern Munich)
– Ronaldao (Shimizu S-Pulse)
– Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna)
– Bebto (Deportivo La Coruna)
– Dunga (VfB Stuttgart)
– Rai (PSG)
– Romario (Barcelona)
– Aldair (Roma)
– Marcio Santos (Bordeaux)
– Paulo Sergio (Bayer Leverkusen)

1990 West Germany (17 of 22 domestic)
– Andreas Brehme (Inter Milan)
– Rudi Voller (Roma)
– Lothar Matthaus (Inter Milan)
– Thomas Berthold (Roma)
– Jurgen Klinsmann (Inter Milan)

1986 Argentina (15 of 22 domestic)
– Daniel Passarella (Fiorentina)
– Jorge Burruchaga (Nantes)
– Diego Maradona (Napoli)
– Jorge Valdano (Real Madrid)
– Pedro Pasculli (Lecce)
– Marcelo Trobbiani (Elche)
– Hector Zelada (America)

1982 Italy (22 of 22 domestic)

1978 Argentina (21 of 22 domestic)
– Mario Kempes (Valencia)

1974 West Germany (21 of 22 domestic)
– Gunter Netzer (Real Madrid)

1970 Brazil (22 of 22 domestic)

1966 England (22 of 22 domestic)

1962 Brazil (22 of 22 domestic)

1958 Brazil (22 of 22 domestic)

1954 West Germany (22 of 22 domestic)

1950 Uruguay (22 of 22 domestic)

1938 Italy (22 of 22 domestic)

1934 Italy (22 of 22 domestic)

1930 Uruguay (22 of 22 domestic)


1 Comment
  • wow, another interpretation is in the modern era, just the last 3 world cups, no club has been represented on all 3 championship teams. at first glance, i thought a team like barcelona would have had a player on each world cup winners team. but nope

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