29 January 2014

Five European Top Youth Academies Worth a Visit

I'd like to introduce you to Mary Mitchell, a guest-writer for the week who brings wide-rangingexperience in online journalism. She is a freelance editor and writes for national and international websites. She likes football, international cuisine, reading and travelling. Today, she brings to us an overview of youth academies across Europe. Take it way, Mary!

Five European Top Youth Academies Worth a Visit
Youth academies are often the first stop for any player wishing to reach the top of their professional game. These academies tend to take on young players, sometimes as young as seven years old and train them up to become world-class champions. Top players, including Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerard, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, all famously progressed through youth academies before playing for their respective countries. Without any doubt, youth academies are key to the success of the national and international game, continually ensuring that more and more skilled young players succeed professionally and become positive role models within the sporting world.

For football fans, visiting an academy can be very interesting, as you may see the stars of tomorrow beginning to shine. In fact, some of these academies also offer tours, just like some stadiums. With this in mind, here is a list of 5 European clubs with excellent youth academies which we think are worth for all real football fans to visit.

Barcelona
Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, is undoubtedly one of the best-equipped in Europe sporting enviable facilities. The academy aims not only to train and improve the physical skills of young players, but also to educate and support them intellectually throughout their time there. Former pupils include the likes of Puyol, Xavi, Reina and Messi.

Recommended lodging while in Barcelona: weekly rented flats (many available in the central area for a cheap price).

Akpom by Kieran Clarke (CC BY 2.0)
Arsenal
The Arsenal Football Club Academy trains talented young players from around the world and helps them to reach their full potential both on and off the pitch. Celebrated graduates include England’s Ashley Cole and Jack Wilshere as well as Spain’s Cesc Fàbregas. Many former pupils go on to play for Arsenal professionally.

Recommended lodging in London is most often not needed if you are reading this blog.

Ajax Amsterdam
Ajax’s youth academy is renowned worldwide for its excellence and top levels of achievement. Considered to be the “breeding ground” of Dutch football, players learn to play with skill, flair, and intelligence. Successful club graduates include top Dutch stars Dennis Bergkamp and Marco Van Basten.

Recommended lodging: cheaphotels in Amsterdam (not as pricey as in London and higher standards).

Man City
The Man City Academy was founded in 1998 and strives to provide young talent with the necessary physical and mental training to enable them to grow and develop into top football players. England’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton are both renowned academy graduates who have gone on to achieve great sporting success.

Recommended lodging: camping, if you are up for it (Manchester is surrounded by beautiful open countryside with a plenty of valleys and parks, did you know it? The city itself has many gorgeous parks like the Heaton Park.)

Sporting Lisbon
The Sporting Academy is home to Sporting Lisbon’s youth squad. The academy was founded in 2002 and since then, through a programme of rigorous training and preparation, has produced a number of world-class players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, and Manchester United’s Nani. 


Recommended lodging while in Lisbon: hostels or guesthouses (hotels are quite expensive).

Youth academies can be extremely important when it comes to building the squad. Ajax, for example, aims bringing through every two years three or more players from its academy to the first team. Why is it so? If youth academies bring up talented players, the club avoids incredibly high tranfer rates for players coming from other teams. And this spared money can be used to continue raising young talents each year. Developing players from a young age also creates strong club commitment and a better integration with the club vision. Also, playing together for a long time, helps teammates to understand each other better. That is why youth-development is fundemantal for team mentality and club loyalty.