Football Academies - The Church of Football Worship?

Football Academies - What are they looking for?
Football Academies - What are they looking for?

Football Academies - Are they worth it?

At footall agents were are concerned about the few "home grown players" making it into the first team, the cost of running a footbal academy has been re-considered by some Clubs.  Others are thriving.  What's the difference?

Well, the long term must be a philosophy in motion, fluid to react to the changing needs and requirements of football clubs.  Easier said than done with the financial pressures and constant demand for success.

Tiki Taka v Germany

Not so far back, the trend was that the only way forward was the the Spanish “Tiki Taka, football, but since the world Cup, some pundits are thinking it’s the German way forward, bigger and stronger players.  Perhaps going back full circle to the 80’s and 90’s where the more “vertically challenged” player had no hopes of making it. 

How Big Is the Player?

Before the World Cup last year, we had the privilege of speaking to a Director of a League 2 Football Club (which shall remain un-named), our Football Agent, Ronnie Hutcheon, had a conversation about player profiles and attributes.  Looking un-easily he said that the Manager’s top 2 questions were:

“How tall is he? far can he head the ball?”

Everton Football Academy

It's not restricted to League Clubs. Ronnie Hutcheon had a recent convesation with a Coach and Scout at Everton. His Son was Scouted and the first question about my son wasn't about him but about his mother.  His question was:

"How tall is your wife?"

He was quite surprised and bemused by the question.   It has since been discovered that according to some data analysis, the best way to assess how tall a player will be is from the height of the mother of the child, some 3 inches taller on average than his Mum!  Learn somthing new everyday.

Long Term Success

The long term must a  be behind club's success, with a productive academy system offering stability on the pitch and, at the same time, financial rewards. While there are clubs who have little history of producing top-level footballers themselves, there are also those who have a long tradition of bringing in their own players to first-team level.

Here are some of listed Academy’s in the world:

  • Barcelona

Barcelona have conquered all before them in recent years and, for the most part, with a team produced within the club's own academy setup.

Notable Graduates: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique.

  • Anderlecht

Anderlecht has worked wonders in recent years to produce a string of top-class footballers on what has not always been a healthy budget.

Notable Graduates: Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Dennis Praet, Massimo Bruno, Walter Baseggio, Franky Vercauteren.

  • Stade Rennais

Rennes may not have achieved great success at senior level in recent times, but there can be no doubting the club's achievement when it comes to producing youth talent.

Notable Graduates: Sylvain Wiltord, Mikael Silvestre, Yann M'Vila, Yoann Gourcuff, Stephane Mbia, Jimmy Briand, Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Moussa Sow.

  • Southampton

Prior to the establishment of the club's academy, Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer were big names to have emerged at Southampton. However, the current system has consistently produced talent in recent years to the envy of many of England's biggest clubs.

Notable Graduates: Adam Lallana, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, Wayne Bridge, James Ward-Prowse.

  • Manchester United

With the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard having shown promise in recent months, the future continues to look bright for youth at the Old Trafford club.

Notable Graduates: Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley.

  • Partizan Belgrade

The Belin–Lazarevic–Nadoveza youth school has been prolific in recent years, producing many of Serbia's brightest talents of the current era for senior side FK Partizan Belgrade.

Notable Graduates: Stevan Jovetic, Matija Nastasic, Adem Ljajic, Lazar Markovic, Miralem Sulejmani, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Simon Vukcevic.

  • Bayern Munich

It is key to the academy's philosophy is "to integrate mental and physical strength in players," with an emphasis on local players understanding the club's identity. At present, the approach is working perfectly.

Notable Graduates: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, Holger Badstuber, Thomas Muller, Diego Contento, David Alaba, Owen Hargreaves, Dietmar Hamann, Markus Babbel.

  • Ajax

Ajax have long since been renowned as one of the great European producers of talent, with the Champions League winning side of the mid-'90s legendary in their success based around a core of home-grown players.

Notable Graduates: Clarence Seedorf, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, John Heitinga, Maarten Stekelenburg, Ricardo van Rhijn

  • Sporting Lisbon

According to an ECA report into academies, Sporting have an average of seven players in national team squads at every age level. It is a remarkable feat that is testament to the high quality of coaching delivered at the Alcochete academy.

Notable Graduates: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Miguel Veloso, Luis Figo, Paulo Futre, Beto, Simao, Ricardo Quaresma.

It is noted that the majority of the Academies are not UK based but we are getting better; for a list of the Top 10 Academies please click here.


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