In a world of mega-transfers and youth imports, academies may become irrelevant

Where does the future lie for academies in modern football?


Jose Mourinho recently said at a post-match press conference in Dublin that Neymar wasn’t an expensive signing.

That statement turned more heads than a Kardashian in a convent, but as much as it pains us to admit it, he’s not wrong.

As a consequence of the recent transfer extravaganza that has enveloped the European game, academy football will – and perhaps already has – become little more than a PR stunt for clubs’ community work.

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The notion that any player costing £195m could be considered a bargain should be enough to make you boil your own head.

Such is the gross nature of the modern game that endorsement, sponsorships, merchandise sales and, potentially, increased ticket prices will compensate for a transfer fee that might even appear insignificant by this time next year.

Coaches are brought in to provide instant success. But in fact the dodgy Mexican telenovela that is the managerial merry-go-round has in itself become a wildly popular narrative acted out in front of a global audience.

The need for stability is being undermined by the need to keep up with the Joneses – the Joneses in this case being a golden horde of kooky, mega-spending billionaires with little else on which to spend their time and money.

Academy systems allow clubs to mould players in the image of a specific club; this is, and always has been, the benefit of such pursuits.

This alleviates the dreaded ‘settling in’ period that players need when they move to a new country and adapt to the associated style of football.

Back in 2012, in spite of their fireplace-hating chairman (or perhaps as a result of his parsimony) Newcastle United tried to show us all the way, but somehow ended up giving Alan Pardew an eight-year contract.

Even Venky’s, the misguided chicken-merchants who serve as owners of Blackburn, would be hard-pressed to compete with such stupidity. Perhaps, then, the powers-that-be are justified in their obsession with quick managerial turnovers.

(On the other hand, have YOU danced on the Wembley touchline with the suggestive hip-work of a handsy Texan uncle at a family wedding?)

Football clubs in a position to develop academies will no longer pride themselves as cornerstones for promoting the talented youth in a given area.

Marcus Rashford was born about seven miles away from Old Trafford. His inclusion in Manchester United squads was hailed as something of a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – yet a certain documentary detailing United’s fabled ‘Class of ’92’ had been released eighteen months prior to this.

Until such a time when football hipsters are satisfied with the re-implementation of local youth into senior sides rather than the acquisition of an unkown trequartista from the Netherlands, the ‘fad’ of locality will have to wait its turn.

While many of us scoff at MLS for their ‘franchise’ models and are rightly taken aback at a sponsored rain-delay during a baseball game, it’s worth remembering that people own Manchester United egg cups, Liverpool bins, Chelsea dartboards and Arsenal Playstation-covers.

We’re not a million miles away from that. The globalisation of football is down to all of us, and we’re in a rat race.

Ironically in a post-Brexit landscape, the concept of academy products entering first team squads in the Premier League is in danger of becoming foreign.

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What do you think?