As the rich get richer, the value of youth academies has never been high. For some clubs, youth academies are a way of earning revenue. For others, it is the only way they can sustain themselves when bigger sharks come calling.
Have a look at the top 10 football academies in the world which are famous for developing various superstars in the footballing globe.
Premier League club Southampton are famous for producing talents such as Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana who have impressed across Europe with their remarkable performances. The Saints have invested £30 million to renovate their training ground. English legend, Alan Shearer is another big name from the academy. Current club captain, James Ward-Prowse is the current crown jewel.
09: Partizan Belgrade
An unexpected name but Partizan Belgrade is the go-to club for Slavic wonderkids. Stevan Jovetic, Matija Nastasic and Adem Ljajic are some notable products of Partizan Belgrade’s academy. In the ’80s the Serbian club was known as one of the most fearful sides in Europe with the kind of players they produced.
The Brazilian club are known for bringing out the legendary Pele into the game who was undoubtedly one of the best players the game has ever seen. Rodrygo, Neymar, Ganso, Elano and Robinho are other stars who started their career at Santos. Another crop is already arriving, headlined by the mercurial Angelo Gabriel and Endrick Felipe.
- Rodygo’s Real Madrid teammate, Vinicius Jr. has been putting up some impressive numbers.
07: Dinamo Zagreb
The astute Croatian side have been instrumental in Croatia’s successes at the international level, culminating in the 2018 World Cup final. Real Madrid star Luka Modric heads the list as their top youth product. His midfield heir Mateo Kovacic came through at Zagreb and they are also home to Lovro Majer, the ‘Next Luka Modric’.
06: Manchester United
This one needs no introduction. English Legends Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best emerged from the Red Devils academy. Sir Alex Ferguson’s arrival in the ’80s saw the Manchester United academy produce players like Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and David Beckham. The class of ’92 is iconic and more recently, Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho and Charlie Mcneill have started knocking on the first-team door.
- Shea Lacey is another gem who will be part of Manchester United’s first-team soon!
05: Bayern Munich
The Bavarians have dominated German football for consistent periods and are known for raising homegrown talent. Almost 50% of Bayern’s squad once consisted of the club’s youth system. Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Holger Badstuber are all academy products. German national team owes a lot of their success to the Bavarians’ top youth setup.
04: Sao Paulo
Hernanes, Oscar, Lucas Moura, Breno, Cafu, Rogerio Ceni and Antonio Carlos Zago are all part of the Brazilian club’s academy who breathe football. 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka is the biggest name that Sao Paulo can boast of producing.
The top three on this list can all make a case for being No.1 and no one would bat an eye. The Amsterdam-based club has the best historical record in the Dutch league. It is recognised as the fabric for creating talents such as Wesley Sneijder, Johan Cruyff and Matthijs de Ligt. Their youth wheel keeps churning out young gems like Frenkie de Jong and more recently, Ryan Gravenberch, who have all flourished at the biggest of stages.
02: Sporting Lisbon
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo are among the Portuguese superstars that Lisbon feel proud of creating. Joao Moutinho, Nani, Miguel Veloso, Simao and Ricardo Quaresma sum up the incredible list of Sporting Lisbon products. Although Porto and Benfica give tough competition to Sporting, the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo as an alumnus alone justifies Sporting’s position on this list.
01: FC Barcelona
The La Masia has constantly produced fresh talent since the late 90s which is the reason they top the list. Legends such as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi are all part of the famous academy. Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique also came in through the same development system. The La Masia keeps bringing out new gems known for their excellence. Even in difficult times, the La Masia youngsters have proven to be shining lights. The likes of Gavi, Pedri and Ansu Fati have taken a troubled Barcelona and dragged them towards success in their nascent years.