Youth Academy; Player Inflation vs. Youth Development
It’s not breaking news to hear that player transfer fees have gone up exponentially with the growth of the digital age. The deals are getting more complex, with third parties and advertisers kicking in for the move. It’s becoming what many of the football purists feared, a bit of a soap opera. The old guard will say that it’s been long gone, but I believe that there is still hope.
The agents, advertisers, and media are making out like kings by swirling stories. Ownership has gone beyond businessmen, to corporations and nations. The outlandish transfer fees and seemingly unvalued purchases may, in fact, give way to a result that nobody anticipated – clubs bringing the focus back to youth academies.
Less than ten years ago, I remember being thrilled when a youth academy player broke through the ranks into our squad. It was equally interesting to follow the other under-20, home-grown players who were making their place in the league. There is something inspiring and endearing about seeing the product that YOUR club built to take on the world with fearlessness. When they fit in seamlessly or exceed expectation having shaken off the nerves, the entire stadium and fan base will them forward as the next great hope!
If this was to take hold over the next couple of seasons, my concern as it relates to the Arsenal would be bedding players into a side lacking confidence. We almost need to be on a winning run to bring in the youth when they can hit the ground running with the freedom to express themselves. The Europa league may provide some of this exposure for the likes of Nelson, Maitland-Niles, and Willock. It still would’ve been better to start a dedicated inflow during previous seasons.
There are a certain pride and excitement involved with watching someone from your academy grow into a top performer. With the inflation from foreign-ownership and television deals, clubs may revert to seeing the focus on their youth players as a much more valuable approach to finding and keeping talent.