Typically, youth academies around the world serve two purposes. They develop players for the first team; and they generate cash through selling talent to other clubs. In order to do this, there are a number of things you should consider and plan before spending money on a youth side. How you respond to these could shape your clubs financial and sporting future.
1. You will not produce a conveyor belt of talent.
If you go in to youth management expecting to create a team of superstars or generate millions in surplus cash, you’re in for a rough ride. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing and get a huge dollop of luck along the way, chances are that you’re going to come across a lot of duds.
This is the single most important thing to know about youth management. Everything else from here works on this premise. Of course, it may sound obvious to you that not every player becomes Lionel Messi. But you really need to think of the implications of this fact. A lot of people will agree with me that “you will not produce a conveyor belt of talent”, but it’s an empty phrase if you don’t build on it. So, repeat after me, and say it as our mantra – “I will not produce a conveyor belt of talent”. Done that? OK, then, we can continue.
2. No youth is worth £20k a day.
The value of money is a very important thing to remember. If you pay £20k a day, that is equivalent to £560k a season. For a 16 year old, that means you will pay at least £2.8m on the lad by the time he reaches 22 and leaves the youth team.
Now remember, you will not produce a conveyor belt of talent. So, if you can pick up a class player for less than £2.8m, buy him instead.
This theory works at all levels. What are you paying over five years for the player. Can you get someone in cheaper than that? Remembering at all times that the youth might become that good – the senior player is that good.
Every time you fail on a player like this, you need to succeed twice as hard with the next. Remember this when going in for players on big wages. If your youth policy is to be sustainable, you need to make sure your net spend (i.e. money spent – money recouped) is as low as possible.
3. You don’t need to produce superstars to make a profit.
A player bought for £200 a day and three star potential who pretty much maxes out his stats will be far more profitable to you than a five star youth on £2,000 a day who only becomes a two star player. It is much better to have a larger number of players who do reasonably well than one superstar and a number of expensive duds.
You will not produce a conveyor belt of talent. But you can produce a handful of players who can either be sold on for more money than you invested in them, or will become better for the squad than equivalent senior players of the same cost.
Selling a player who only cost you £100k in total for £300k means you can afford to spend £100k on a further two youths (who may not “make it”) and still break even.
4. You don’t need to produce superstars to strengthen your squad.
As before – spending a total of £100k on a player who would cost £300k on the open market is a bargain. And that’s the whole point of a youth system.
Further, all teams need back up – squad players who can fill in for injuries and suspensions. It makes little sense for these players to be on high wages and cost millions of pounds. A good, solid back up to play a few games a season in case of injury who cost peanuts through your youth system is much better than spending millions on a five star youth that never even gets close to warming the senior bench.
You won’t produce a conveyor belt of talent. But you may well produce a number of good backup players, maybe of whom a couple will go on to become stars in your first team.
5. You don’t need to fill the side with five star potential youths.
I think this is the obvious advice coming from this article so far. You need to produce players who are worth more than you have spent on them. There are two ways of judging whether you’ve done this. Either you have produced a player who is much better than a player who you could pick up on the open market for the same price. Or you sell the player for significantly more than you have spent on them.
If you’re only paying £200 a day for a youth, you will spend around £5.6k on them over the course of a season. Allowing for auto-extended contracts and wage rises (let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the wage doubles each season, which is a deliberate over-estimation of the cost), you’ll probably spend around £175k over the five years (16-21). Now remember – that’s if his wage doubles every year. That’s not necessarily going to happen.
So, you don’t really need to get in 5* youths on massive wages to make a profit or to bring in better players than you have. £175k on the open market will get you a decent player – but then remember you have to pay wages on top of that. So, a 4* or even 3* player could, if they develop to their full potential, easily be worth around £200k by the time they get to their early 20s.
You won’t, as you know, develop a conveyor belt of talent. But you’re far more likely to produce five youths who develop to the required level from 50 players than you are by putting all your faith in 5. Therefore, spending around £20k a day on 100 youths of around 3.5* potential is far more likely to be profitable than spending £20k a day on one 5* potential youth.
And remember at all times – potential means potential. It is by no means a guarantee of how good a player will be in the future.
But it’s not just financial – how good do you genuinely expect to be in 3 or 4 years’ time? Enough for 180-200 CA players? It’s unlikely, especially early in a gameworld. A well-developed 3* or 4* player is likely to be of the required standard to play on the bench or get into the starting eleven and will cost significantly less to train.
So, bear all this in mind before you jump into youth management.
|Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.