According to a recent survey done by the CIES Football Observatory, Real Madrid and AFC Ajax have come out on top as the most effective talent producing clubs in Europe.
While Real Madrid supplied the highest graduates to the top 5 leagues, Ajax were more productive in training future players for all leagues across Europe. This is a downgrade for Barcelona from last year, who were top of the top 5 list last year. The surprising stat though was the relatively low presence of Premier League clubs. Only 2 English Clubs feature in the top 10, and just 4 in the top 50. Spain on the other hand is well represented with 11 clubs in the top 50.
While Real Madrid had 41 players plying their trade in the top leagues in Europe, Manchester United had 34, and Arsenal only 22. The low incidence of English clubs is a clear indication as to where the game is heading. With more money in the English game than ever before, teams are increasingly fielding a higher number of foreign internationals. Most teams these days in the EPL have a strong core of foreign Internationals, a far cry from the decades gone by. With United keeping only 6 out of their 34 trainees, it shows as to how much faith the team has in its once famous academy. Anyone who has some passion for the game would remember the Class of ’92, which features legends such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs from a year before. But that is not the case these days, as United have also strayed from their philosophy of playing home grown talents. With the onus solely on winning, more and more teams are resorting to buying a good team rather than building one.
Arsenal are well known for their French connection and were the first team in the Premier League to field an entirely non-British line up. Although they have a good squad of England players like Walcott, Chamberlain, Gibbs, Arsenal have also released 13 of their 22 players around Europe. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the England National Team have not been doing so well over the past few years. The best international teams of today, namely Spain, Germany and France are all well represented in this list. All these nations have more than double the number of representatives than England, which clearly reflects in their recent performances. The more quality, young players that come out of your top clubs, the more successful the National team will be.
As for the players in all 31 top division across Europe, Ajax are front runners with 71 players, 11 ahead of second placed Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and more than 30 ahead of the nearest English rivals Manchester United. Both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona come somewhere between the above two. However, this particular section is rules mostly by the smaller nations such as Serbia, Croatia, teams not traditionally considered as super powers in football.
One will probably not read too much into a study conducted about the player development programs of different clubs, but it does give you a strong correlation between success and failure. All good teams are built on solid home grown talents, whether it is the United teams of the 1990’s-2000’s, the Barcelona teams of late 2000’s or the 1980’s team of Real Madrid among others, for establishing a long lasting and sustainable dynasty, presence of quality home grown talent is a must, something there seems to be a dearth of in the English game. Maybe certain rule changes limiting either the number of foreign internationals or setting a mandatory quota of England Internationals in every team will change things for the better, but till money and entertainment rules the roost, English cubs look destined to buy foreign talent rather than persevere with one of their own.
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