Sunday, 3 January 2016

Clubs ​Building for the future- relying on youth academy

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In today’s football world it becomes increasingly important to secure promising talents early before another club buys them unless you’ve got a good youth academy you can rely on. For most top clubs in Europe that presents an issue although there are some exceptions. Is it commendable? Sure. Is it necessary to have many academy players? Not really as most clubs find sufficient talent elsewhere – nationally or internationally. However, it’s definitely necessary to have a long term concept for the club.

There are several approaches to this matter. Some clubs bring in a lot of domestic and foreign talent every year. Some fall through the sieve, make it to the first team or some don’t and will be sold for profit, in the best case. One club executing it this way are Chelsea FC, rather successfully. The west London based club is buying foreign talent every summer, spending 15.2 million Euros in 2015 to bring in Kenedy, Nathan, Cristian Manea and Danilo Pantic (end of contract). But it’s not all about foreign talent for the Blues, they also have great domestic prospects in Dominic Solanke, Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Isaiah Brown.

In a massive club like Chelsea it’s not a given to make the cut for the first team but can potentially find success somewhere else, something Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku experienced. The two were sold as they were evaluated not good enough in the long run, Lukaku struggled in his first two seasons at Everton but is now running on all cylinders for the Toffees. Kevin de Bruyne? Developing into one of the world’s best playmakers and picking up two trophies with VfL Wolfsburg along the way: He was transferred to Manchester City for 75 million Euros in summer. The Belgian was involved in 17 goals in 18 games for the Citizens – a pretty good return and exactly what Chelsea are missing currently. Both were sold by the Blues and it’s generally seen as a big mistake but they received 58 million Euros for them after all. Making nearly 30 million Euros profit on the two Belgians shows that Chelsea’s system is working.

Back to Chelsea’s current talent. Five out of the aforementioned youngsters are currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, one of Chelsea’s affiliate clubs abroad and arguably their best.

The Dutch Eredivisie offers great conditions for young players to get used to professional football. Majority of clubs field rather young squads, there’s far less pressure, the media is more forgiving and while it is a European top league it does not have the intensity of the Barclays Premier League. A school many stars have graduated and will graduate, Georginio Wijnaldum, Stefan de Vrij and Memphis Depay - three recent Dutch graduates who made big money moves.

This brings us to another approach – relying on your established youth academy. A prime example of this, Ajax Amsterdam, football greats like Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Johan Neeskens have come up through their ranks. For decades Ajax were the epitome of successful football paired with developing some of the world’s best footballers in their academy with Cruyff’s ‘Voetbal Totaal’. Since the end of the 90’s the club might not be the European powerhouse it once used to be, however they still know how to produce some of the best talent out there - domestic and foreign alike. Wesley Sneijder, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Christian Eriksen, just to name a few.

Today, Ajax still have numerous prospects that are already being eyed for future transfers by European top clubs. Jairo Riedewald and Riechedly Bazoer, two 19 year old players who are starters for Frank de Boer’s team. Riedewald, a typical Dutch ball playing centre back with outstanding athleticism and calmness on the ball. Bazoer, a modern centre midfielder with great technical ability and intelligence on the pitch. The two will certinaly make a move to a big club sooner or later, if they continue to commit their attention to football. One thing is for sure - they won’t be the last prospects coming from Ajax famous youth academy.

You can also combine both models. A healthy combination of academy players and foreign talent that will pressure the domestic youngsters to work harder. Atlético Madrid are one of the best clubs at doing so, they plan for the future of the club, not the current without neglecting necessary transfers to stay competitive now. The Rojiblancos have one of the best managers in the world in Diego Simeone but are working with a model that’s exceeding the dependence on a certain manager.

Last summer alone, Atlético have purchased Santos Borré, Luciano Vietto, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Matías Kranevitter and Bernard Mensah for a combined sum of 60 million Euros. All due to (future) necessity in their respective position. Gabi and Tiago are in late stages of their career and will have to be replaced soon, the latter will be out for the season with a broken tibia, an injury he suffered last weekend against Espanyol Barcelona. Fernando Torres is not the striker he once was in Liverpool, of course, comes off the bench most of the time. Even though he was bought in summer, Jackson Martinez will turn 30 next year and will probably deliver two or three solid seasons in the Spanish capital. The foreigners purchased by the club in the last transfer window will certainly make their contribution however Atlético Madrid have an excellent youth academy too. Koke, Saúl Niguez and Óliver Torres are three of Atleti’s best and most promising players and none are older than 23 years. Lucas Hernández and Thomas are two exciting prospects that were promoted to the first team in 2015. There will be a constant stream of academy, other domestic or foreign talent coming through unless the manager and his staff decide they have to make changes.

Diego Simeone and his team are currently 2nd in the La Liga behind FC Barcelona, have clinched their spot for the Champions League knockout phase and have won the first leg of their round of 32 matchup against FC Reus Deportiu. ‘El Cholo’ and his players will try their best to obtain some silverware this season but it won’t question Atlético’s project if they don’t.Nowadays, I has concentrated my whole energy upon the FIFA 16 and buy fifa 16 coins.

As you see, there is a variety of ways about this but all of them have a common goal – building a solid base for the future. Some spend more, some spend less others utilize their youth academy. Go five or six years back and you’d hardly find any youngsters in FC Bayern Munich’s team. In 2009 through 2010, they got a small batch of youth players that are now some of the best players in the world, Thomas Müller, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber. The latter doesn’t fall into the world class bracket but was destined for a great career before he got badly injured in 2012. The last debutant in the German national team coming from FC Bayern was Badstuber – in 2010. In most top clubs it gets increasingly difficult for domestic talent to succeed and I doubt that will change anytime soon.

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