A-League stars at the World Cup: Ivan Franjic and Mark Milligan.

A-League stars at the World Cup: Ivan Franjic and Mark Milligan. Photo: Getty Images

Can we count David Villa? Please. No matter, if Melbourne City's superstar recruit doesn't quite fit into the calculations there is still every reason to celebrate the A-League's contribution to the World Cup, or more specifically the Australian team.

The next five weeks are all about national teams, of course, but it's a fascinating exercise to join the dots between club and country. No surprise that England has the biggest representation with 114 out of the 736 players in Brazil coming from the home of football, including our own Massimo Luongo and Bailey Wright, who are the only players in the tournament hailing from clubs in the third-tier. No wonder they can't believe their luck.

Does this make the English Premier League the strongest in the world? Debatable. It certainly confirms it is the richest league in the world. Germany's Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A are the next most represented. In all, 52 different competitions from every confederation bar Oceania will have a player in Brazil.

David Villa: the Spanish star can't be counted as an A-League star.

David Villa: the Spanish star can't be counted as an A-League star. Photo: AFP

So where does the A-League fit in? Quite nicely, as it turns out. By picking seven home-based players in his list of 23, Ange Postecoglou has put the A-League in the mid-range of the World Cup's 'league' table. Russia tops the list by selecting 100 per cent of its squad from its own competition. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ghana, Uruguay and Côte d'Ivoire are at the other end of the spectrum with 4.3per cent, or just one domestic player in their squads.

The Socceroos have 30.4 per cent, which is a huge improvement the last two World Cups. In 2006 there were three home-based players - Mark Milligan (Sydney FC), Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory) and Michael Beauchamp (Central Coast Mariners) - while in 2010 there were just two, Jason Culina (Gold Coast United) and Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United). It's a measure of Postecoglou's open-mind in comparison to his predecessor, but also confirmation of just how much the competition has evolved in the last few years. Indeed the A-League's representation could have been higher if Costa Rica hadn't dumped Carlos Hernandez from their squad at the last minute.

Some other interesting facts. Bayern Munich have the most players at the World Cup (15), while all 23 players in the Algerian squad hail from a different club. In all, 76 per cent of the World Cup players come from Europe, underlining how the financial epicentre of the game remains unchanged. But change it will, which is why the A-League has more reason to hope.

The decision by Villa to spend the next period of his career as a full-time player for New York City, and a guest player for Melbourne City, is seminal. The A-League will never be able to entice a critical mass of the world's best players, but the American competition, the MLS, might. Throw in Japan, South Korea, China, Mexico and possibly even South Africa, and there is a subtle, but unmistakable, shift in the balance of power. It might take a generation or two, but it's not inconceivable that at some stage in the future a World Cup will be held with less than 50 per cent of European-based players.

And then there's the host country, Brazil. The 'Selecao' may have only four home-based players in their squad, but the fact that two of them are strikers, Jo and Fred, is significant. The Brazilian league now pays as well as many European competitions, and more than all the other South American leagues. Increasingly the 'Campeanato Brasileiro' is now able to bring quality Brazilian players (including strikers) back home in their prime, while it also attracts good players from the rest of the continent. Uruguay, Chile and Ecuador will all field Brazilian-based players at the World Cup. Factor in the legacy value of the 'Copa do Mundo' - principally 12 state-of-the-art stadiums - and it's easy to imagine the Brazilian league emerging as a genuine world-class competition.

It's not club colours, of course, which will on display starting this weekend. But what the World Cup always reveals is the money trail in world football - the one the players always follow. For Australia, it tells us that more of our own players see value, and reward, in playing at home, while Villa's impending arrival means the A-League has broken through another glass ceiling. That's win for Australia before the Socceroos have even kicked a ball in anger.