A New War Emerges- Clubs Battle for World’s Top Youngsters

Last night’s 6-0 Carling Cup win against Sheffield United would have turned a few heads not least Michel Platini’s. There were nine english players in the squad for Arsenal and all product of Arsenal’s youth system (Gibbs came from the former Wimbledon FC after they became MK Dons).

However there were also nine other youngsters, hand picked from all over the world. Vela starred in the World U17’s championship and was duly snapped up by Arsene and his team of scouts. The tournament has now become an essential fixture for the scouts of the world’s best teams looking to snap up the next Messi or Ronaldo. (There have always been scouts there as Man United did snap up twins Fabio and Rafael from the tournament but there is greater importance). Clubs are looking to sign potential world class player for a cut price instead of buying later where they would cost more or buy to sell for a profit. 

There are scouts all over the world, covering youth tournaments to continental tournaments (i.e. African Nations). Arsenal have become the envy of all clubs in Europe and are trying to adopt a similar model and indeed a business model to the Gunners. Nowadays everytime Arsenal are in for a youngster, you hear other clubs are also interseted.

There are more foreign youngsters signed, especially from South America where the league used to be thriving but are now having to consolidate every season as players leave for Europe. Arsenal were not the first team to buy youth but there is greater importance in this area. Who can explain why Real Madrid signed Marcelo and Higuain to name two after being notoriously known for buying the world’s best. Spurs hired Damien Comolli as their chief scout, Frank Arnesen to Chelsea and even Newcastle have hired a director of football in Dennis Wise. (Mike Ashley statement after Keegan left said that buying established players is not the way forward anymore instead buying top youngsters to progress.) Sevilla’s recent success is said to have been down to the appointment of Monchi as sporting director.

This is bad news for the smaller clubs who cannot compete with the richest clubs pinching their youngsters for a small fee. If only training expenses (compensation) will be received for young talent, what is the point of having a youth system at the lower level? True it is up to the family and the player if they want to stay loyal to their club as they are technically out of contract. Pato was hidden from the spotlight at Internacional so once he reached 17 they could sell him for a higher price.

One of the problems English teams in producing talent are laws that state academies only register U12-U16 players within one-and-a-half hours travel time. This has surely increased the amount spent on foreign imports at a young age rather than develop the small amount you have here. A young prospect could live in Bournemouth but will not be allowed to join Arsenal therefore losing some of the years of development. It is said the best English youngsters should train with the best players.

Platini and co will need to find out a way where it is fair on both clubs and the tribunal’s deciding on a fairer fee for a youngster. However with a greater importance placed by clubs in signing youngsters expect more digruntled clubs and a potentially ugly battle brewing.


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