In the modern world of football, is it possible for the top clubs to achieve success AND nurture their young talent? Is it possible to find the balance between spending big and developing young players while winning trophies?
The recent resigning of Pogba at United and the failed bid Chelsea made to resign Lakaku just highlights the lack of time the top clubs have for developing young players. In a business driven by commercial deals and instant success, clubs and managers are under intense pressure to bring success on the pitch quickly and consistently. This often means that they need players that can produce top quality right now, not tomorrow and certainly not next season. Just look at the resigning of Pogba. United sold him to Juventus for 1.5m in 2011 and resigned him for 93.5m in 2016. Technically, Utd paid Juventus 91m to take Pogba on loan for 5 years! Pogba clearly had talent and potential when he came through the ranks at the Utd youth academy but Fergie felt he wasn’t ready for regular first team football. Maybe if Utd were afforded more time to achieve success and the expectation wasn’t to win the league EVERY year, they could have saved themselves a few million quid. Mourinho joined Utd this summer and has already shipped out a lot of young talent; Blackett, Yanuzaj and Wilson to name but a few. Chelsea and City also sit firmly in the big spending category while they neglect the development of their talented young players. Just look at Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea and you can choose from a very long list of young players shipped in and out of City over recent years. It will be interesting to see how the careers of players like Fosu-Mensah, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard develop under Mourinho at United. Will they be shipped out for big money, ready made replacements?
Looking at the top teams, there is one exception to the rule when it comes to buying top ready made players; Arsenal. Now there is the question as to whether Arsenal are still a top club but for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume they are! Arsene Wenger has come under intense criticism for many years about his lack of spending. For years Arsenal have fallen short of challenging for the league and this is largely down to Arsene’s resistance to spending big money on world class players to fill a few important areas that need strengthening. This season Arsenal fans have been calling out for a top quality striker to replace Giroud. Don’t get me wrong, Giroud is a good player but he won’t win you the league. To make matters worse Arsene has been haggling over a few million to sign Lacazette who looks like he could be the missing piece in Arsenal’s jigsaw. In addition the ongoing saga to sign the German centre back Mustafi from Valencia is another cause of frustration for Arsenal fans. To Arsene’s credit, he does love to develop players and give them chances. Just look at Calum Chambers, Danny Welbeck and Oxlade Chamberlain. These are all young British players who have been developed by Wenger. It’s almost a certainty that these players would not have been afforded time at the other top clubs, Danny Welbeck being a prime example as he was shipped out by Man Utd for not having the quality they require.
My question is, is their a balance that the top clubs are failing to achieve? Can you achieve success while saving some money and developing young talent? Looking at England’s performance at the Euros, the national team would most definitely benefit from a more nurturing approach.
I think the answer to both these questions is yes. Unfortunately other factors play a major part in the operations of a club which means it’s highly unlikely a balance will be struck. Clubs like Utd have huge global appeal and huge commercial sponsorships. Immediate success is vital to maintain themselves as one of the footballing superpowers. Arsenal seem to have a different agenda where a fourth placed finish, Champions league football and a packed stadium suits the owners business plan of making the most money while spending the least.
While the approach by the top clubs are the source of much frustration, its also what makes the Premier League the most exciting league in the world. Sure it’s not great for the English national team and the money being spent can make you sick when you look at other actual important real life jobs, but who’s complaining when you’re sitting down with a cold beer watching a the two greatest managers in football go against each other on a Manchester Derby Super Sunday?!