Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Buy first, develop players later

17.2% is the rather paltry percentage of homegrown players in Europe's top leagues according to a new survey.

The Centre International d'Etude du Sport (CIES) in Switzerland found the average has fallen from 20.2% four years ago. They took 'homegrown' as a player who had spent at least three years in a club's academy between the ages of 15 and 21.

Surprisingly the Premier League is not the worst offender; that crown is taken by Serie A's less than self-confident 10%.

France's first division clubs have the highest ratio however with almost a quarter coming through the youth ranks. Spain is close by with the much-vaunted German top flight somewhat behind, closer to England.

Ligue 1                 24.6%
La Liga                 22.4%
Bundesliga           16.4%
Premier League    13.9%
Serie A                   9.6%

In terms of clubs from the big five leagues developing their own players, three of the top four are from La Liga.

Athletic Bilbao's regional recruitment tradition unsurprisingly sees them in the lead, along with Lyon, often cited as the model organisation for a club with modest resources. Real Sociedad make it two Basque sides in the top three.

  • Athletic Bilbao           15
  • Olympique Lyonnais  15
  • Real Sociedad           15
  • Barcelona                  13
  • Manchester Utd         12
  • Bordeaux                   11
  • Metz                          10
  • Montpellier                 10
  • Lens                            9
  • Nantes                         9
  • Schalke                       9

Real Madrid have eight players who grew up at the Bernabeu, Bayern Munich six schooled in-house, Atletico Madrid five, Inter four, Chelsea & Milan three and Manchester City only one. Empoli was the highest-placed Italian club with seven, the same as Arsenal.

Ajax, outside the five big leagues but with a legendary youth system, have 15 own-grown players, but are topped by Argentina's River Plate, with 17.

When it comes to importing players from overseas, the Premier League came top in 2013-'14 with a percentage almost twice as big as France's.

Premier League   63%
Serie A               55%
Bundesliga         41%
La Liga               39%
Ligue 1               32%

So the overall picture, at least in England and Italy, is of clubs buying in more and more talent despite spending a fortune on youth systems to avoid the huge costs that entails.

The situation is really quite curious. For ambitious young players trying to make it at Europe's biggest clubs, the best chance of success paradoxically seems to be to get transferred to another one.

- Sean O'Conor

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