Many of the worlds finest clubs have spent hundreds of millions of pounds/euro’s on transfer fees for the world’s best, most elite players in the hope of buying success. Chelsea, both Manchester clubs, PSG, Real, Barcelona, they tend to spend millions to bring in more stars to an already star-studded line-up. Ideally though, a club doesn’t need to rely on splashing the cash but should promote clubs from within, from the academy.
Barcelona used to have its own conveyor belt of talent in La Masia, its renowned youth academy. The harsh reality of the moment is that the Catalans’ academy is not producing young footballers of a good enough standard to walk tall in the first team right now. I feel sorry for any youngsters in the Juvenil A (U19) or Barca B teams that play in a forward, attacking role at present because there’s quite a few years left yet of the Messi-Neymar-Suarez trident and unless any one of the three suffers a catastrophic season-ending injury, no one is going to get a look in up front.
The fact is that there are plenty of graduates coming through but the conveyor belt is supplying Europe’s other clubs and not the team for which the players were developed. Perhaps it is the need for immediate and continued success that is driving the business model of the club in terms of its transfer policy at the moment.
That’s beyond the point I am trying to make though, as I want to focus on setting up such a conveyor belt of talent in Football Manager. If you want to look at a club structure which focusses on setting up a great youth academy system, which factors need to be considered, which steps should be undertaken and what the correct course of action is.
Besides it being a generally good idea to create a steady supply of cheap and home-grown players for your own team, my current team makes it more or less mandatory to maintain a steady supply of academy graduates. You see, I am playing in the Australian league, where my first team is restricted to a maximum of 23 players on senior contracts. You can notice the problem and the solution there. “Senior” players are all players not on youth contracts and in Australia, a player can be on a youth contract until his 22nd birth-day. A great way to bolster your squad strength is by leaving talented youngsters on youth contracts for a while, which is where this series will come in handy.
The basic concept
When you research setting up a good youth academy, you can find a lot of information on various topics. Facilities, what makes a good coach, there are even some very good pieces on tutoring your players. What I find lacking however is a piece that combines all the elements of the equation and shows you what to look for when you want to set up a truly great youth academy, a proper conveyor belt of talent.
If you break the whole system down to its core elements, you come up with a number of prerequisites that need to be met, absolutely vital conditions one cannot do without. The first and most standard one of these conditions consists of the facilities you are using. Secondly and not very surprisingly, it’s the staff you have employed. I have mentioned tutoring as well as an integral part of player development. The other factors that contribute to the success are, in my eyes, the club DNA you have set or want to set, identifying your player requirements and guaranteeing first team action somehow.
This post is the start of a short series, where I look at all the factors listed above, where I look at what you need to set up a proper conveyor belt of talent, what you need to do to turn your academy into the next La Masia. I will use my own Perth Glory team as an example throughout the series.