Over the last ten years teams in the Premier League have been pumping money into their youth academies. There’s been a real push towards promoting homegrown youth, and building a team around top quality, home-grown talent. But still, young players in the Premier League’s academies can’t get enough game time at their parent club and are seeking alternative routes into the limelight.
The best and most recent example of this is Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. His Bundesliga form with eight goals and thirteen assists had fired him into Gareth Southgate’s England team, and onto the radars of several Premier League teams including Manchester United. He’s an idol to hundreds of young English footballers, and a growing number are choosing to take the same path as Sancho and head out onto new territory.
It’s a contemporary fashion for footballers in England to move abroad, but why only now? Here we’ll take a look at four reasons behind the trend.
1. Better youth set ups.
Premier League clubs have all upgraded their youth academies, this is because of the ‘Homegrown Player Rule’. The rule was introduced by the Premier League itself, as part of their Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The rule states that each team must include at least eight homegrown players in their 25-man squad at the start of the season and came into effect in 2015, in an effort to improve the National team’s chances on the global stage.
Naturally then, clubs in the English top flight have focussed more of their investment into producing homegrown talent. Be it with a brand-new £200 million training facility like Manchester City’s Etihad Campus, or by improving scouting structure and networks across the country. Sancho was a youth player first with Watford from the age of six, and then City before emigrating to Germany in September 2017.
Despite the talent of Sancho and many like him, he couldn’t get a sniff at first team action in England. Having witnessed Sancho’s rise to the limelight, clubs are beginning to wonder whether they can uncover a diamond in the English youth ranks.
2. High supply.
With youth teams starting as young as six, there’s plenty talented footballers to choose from in the Premier League’s youth pile. It’s because of this high supply that players can generally be bought pretty cheaply. Sancho turned down a new contract at City for a £10 million move to Dortmund, whilst the likes of former Tottenham youth forward Keanan Bennets moved to Borussia Mönchengladbach for free, and Sunderland’s highly-rated Josh Maja made the switch to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux for just £1.5million.
What’s more is that Premier League clubs are ‘milking’ their youth set-ups for profit. Aside from making money off of ticket-prices, transfers and sponsors, the biggest clubs are also offloading their youth products by the shed load.
The diagram below shows just how much these clubs are making over the past four seasons. Manchester City in particular have taken advantage of this revenue stream, making over £70 million on their academy players who have between ten and no first team appearances, a staggering £40 million of that for players with no senior appearances.
This is proving a hit with teams throughout Europe, who don’t have as much financial backing and income streams as teams in the Premier League, and have to scope the market for bargains.
3. Players willing to take the risk.
English players would not be in such high demand throughout Europe if they didn’t want to make the move. Sancho and others have followed suit, much like Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe who’s moved on loan to German side RB Leipzig. However, there are rumours starting to surface that clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool are looking to bring Sancho back to the Premier League. Sancho is currently at 3/1 on a single bet to make a move to Manchester United in the summer with rumours of £60m price tag. If you’re unsure on what the different bet types mean, visit bestbetsfree.com and read their useful bet types guides.
These young English talents are determined to break into their first team’s in England but realistically, it’s unlikely to happen no matter how good they are. Their best bet is to head to the overseas stage where they’ll get given more chance to fight for a first team spot, and the chance to prove their worth outside of a youth set-up.
What’s more is that being a footballer across Europe is different in many ways, and in some, better. Let’s take German football for example. Whenever you see football in Germany it’s always in packed out, sky-rising stadiums. That’s because ticketing infrastructure throughout Europe is a lot laxer than it is in England, and people can actually afford to go to the games, making for a better atmosphere on matchdays.
4. Gareth Southgate
The man with the waistcoat gave England their best finish in a major tournament since 1996 last summer, and did so with a relatively young squad. His Three Lions team featured the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and has continued to pick younger, in-form players in his team.
Since the heroics of the World Cup last year, there’s been a growing demand for English footballers, particularly younger ones. Southgate proved to the world that England’s kids can do wonders, and now they’re darting about all over Europe.
Maybe this trend will continue and we’ll see more players like Sancho, who may or may not make their name in European football before doing so in the Premier League.