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Oct 24, 2013

Expensive kids; prolific countries

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN’s team of football anoraks at askespnfc@outlook.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Which countries -- in terms of their top three scorers -- were the most prolific in each of the major leagues last season? -- Zahan Mehta

It is an interesting question. The home country always provides the most goals (even England in the Premier League) through sheer volume of players but not necessarily the top scorer. Go over the top three scorers per country, which measures strength in depth, and it is rarer a foreign nation will top the scoring charts, but not impossible, as the figures below show.

Powered by Lionel Messi’s extraordinary 46-goal haul, three Argentines scored 70 La Liga goals between them. Indeed, Spain’s total of 67 would have put them on top in any of the other major leagues while Messi would have been a winner on his own had he been as prolific in the Premier League.

The English top flight is notable for several other reasons. Firstly, it was the closest contest with only six goals separating Belgium, the winners, from third-placed Spain. They were separated by England. Yet the individual top three scorers -- Netherlands' Robin van Persie, Uruguay's Luis Suarez and Wales' Gareth Bale -- were not represented in the national charts, because their compatriots did not chip in with enough goals."

Premier League

1. Belgium 47 (Benteke 19, Lukaku 17, Fellaini 11)
2. England 44 (Lambert 15, Lampard 15, Walcott 14)
3. Spain 41 (Michu 18, Cazorla 12, Mata 11)

It was a different tale in other leagues. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the only Swede to find the net in Ligue 1 last season, but it was still enough to place Sweden third, while Uruguay occupied the same place in Serie A because Edinson Cavani struck 29 times; the next most prolific Uruguayan, Edgar Arevalo Rios, scored twice.

Finally, a word for Argentina, the only country to figure in the top three of three major leagues. One of the top three Italian scorers, Pablo Osvaldo, was also born in Argentina, though even if we counted him as an Argentine, Italy would still have won in Serie A. In addition, Argentina’s top three Premier League scorers (Sergio Aguero, with 12; Carlos Tevez, with 11; and Franco di Santo, with five) struck 28 times. The only exception to the trend of Argentines scoring was in Germany: none found the net at all in last season’s Bundesliga.

Bundesliga

1. Germany 55 (Kiessling 25, Maier 16, Reus 14)
2. Poland 40 (Lewandowski 24, Blaszczykowski 11, Sobiech 5)
3. Hungary 25 (Szalai 13, Huszti 9, Stieber 3)

La Liga

1. Argentina 70 (Messi 46, Higuain 16, Saviola 8)
2. Spain 67 (Negredo 25, Soldado 24, Castro 18)
3. Portugal 56 (Ronaldo 34, Postiga 14, Pizzi 8)

Ligue 1

1. France 46 (Gomis 16, Aliadiere 15, Ben Yedder 15)
2. Argentina 36 (Cvitanich 19, Lopez 11, Herrera 6)
3. Sweden 30 (Ibrahimovic 30)

Premier League

1. England 44 (Lambert 15, Lampard 15, Walcott 14)
2. Belgium 43 (Benteke 19, Lukaku 17, Fellaini 11)
3. Spain 41 (Michu 18, Cazorla 12, Mata 11)

Serie A

1. Italy 55 (Di Natale 23, El Shaarawy 16, Osvaldo 16)
2. Argentina 43 (Denis 15, Lamela 15, Bergessio 13)
3. Uruguay 32 (Cavani 29, Arevalo Rios 2, Britos 1)

After seeing these fantastic youngsters dominate the Premier League (Oscar, Aaron Ramsey, Ross Barkley and so on), I wondered: who have been the top five most expensive players aged 20 or under? -- Richard from China

The top five include two men who, at various stages, have been saddled with the tag of the world’s most expensive teenager: Antonio Cassano, for whom Roma paid 30 million euros in 2001, and then Wayne Rooney, who was costlier still when he joined Manchester United three years later.

Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos remains the priciest young defender while the top two spots are taken by men who moved this year. Mario Gotze, it should be said, is included on a technicality: Bayern Munich triggered the release clause in his contract at Borussia Dortmund before his 21st birthday and Gotze agreed to sign, even if the transfer was only completed after it. However, Lucas Moura is more expensive and his 45 million-euro move to Paris Saint-Germain, arranged before his 20th birthday but with his arrival in France delayed for a further five months, made him a record-breaker.

The list in full is:

5. Sergio Ramos, 24 million pounds, Sevilla to Real Madrid, 2005

4. Antonio Cassano, 25 million pounds, Bari to Roma, 2001

3. Wayne Rooney, 27 million pounds, Everton to Manchester United, 2004

2. Mario Gotze, 31.5 million pounds, Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, 2013

1. Lucas Moura, 35 million pounds, Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain, 2013

Which club has won most European trophies in history? Is it Real Madrid or Barcelona? -- Niraj Nagwekar

The Spanish giants are actually tied on 11. Real have a record nine European Cups/Champions Leagues, plus two UEFA Cups; Barcelona have only won the European Cup four times, but they lifted the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup four times and the Fairs Cup, the precursor to the UEFA Cup, and then the Europa League, another three. If we use the European Super Cup as the tiebreaker then Barcelona, who have won it four times to Real’s one, come out on top. As ever, however, there is a caveat: not everyone counts the Fairs Cup, so without that Real are comfortably ahead of their rivals.

And there is a further complication: if you choose to include the Super Cup, then AC Milan have 14 European trophies (seven Champions Leagues, which is second only to Real, two Cup Winners’ Cups and five Super Cups), which definitely puts them ahead of Real and -- if you don’t include the disputed Fairs Cups -- also takes them past Barcelona.

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