Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert said last week that the academies of all the top flight German clubs combined cost the equivalent of one Gareth Bale transfer to Real Madrid (roughly €100 million). While English clubs produce the odd superstar, however, there is a belief that they are trapped by an outlook that leaves their managers under pressure to buy and their young players obliged to look elsewhere for first team opportunities.
At a club like Freiburg, well known for its success in bringing young players through, there is a certain respect for the approach of, say, Chelsea even if there are marked differences in that the club's ultimately hope for in terms of end product.
"At Chelsea, they need to produce a player who can compete on a Champions League level but the problem, not just there but at other clubs, is that they lose the talent between, let's say 17 and maybe 22, because they cannot offer the player the possibility to develop to the required level.
“I think this is a little bit easier in Germany due to the competitions we have. And, to be honest, also because the quality of players that we need (at Freiburg) for our first team players, is a decent second division player. As soon as he reaches that level the coach might decide that ‘my way of thinking is to choose you over a player who has played for a couple of seasons’.” This, he acknowledges, is effectively a form of positive discrimination.
“So the game they are playing is somehow different but you cannot say that they did not produce a Champions League winning player for 20 years, therefore they are not doing a good job. I believe they have outstanding coaches.
And they have outstanding possibilities to develop players but what they need to produce is players who are amongst the 100 best players in the world and this is a different way, it’s a different idea.”
Schalke 04 academy director Oliver Ruhnert broadly agrees, describing the general standard of England's academies and their facilities as "unbelievable" but acknowledging that the pressure for success prevents many first team coaches from working more closely with them.
At Bayern Munich, Under- 19 coach Heiko Vogel, is more scathing, describing Manchester City's approach as "insane".
“If you compare the costs of the Manchester City under-19 team and Bayern Munich’s, it’s unbelievable. (We spend) much less; much less. (Why?) Because they are insane. Money doesn’t matter. But I think that if the Sheikh goes, what about Man City? Nothing. Nothing.”
Like City, Bayern are currently investing heavily in new academy facilities but, Vogel says, “our academy costs €35 million, the academy of Manchester City costs €250 million (this may have been a deliberate exaggeration intended for effect but it is not too fanciful; the original budget was more than €125 million and the final price tag is likely to be somewhere between the two).
“That’s just a small difference. But last year we won the Champions League. Manchester City? No. That’s also a small difference. You can’t pay for tradition.”