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Who Has the Best Youth Academy in Europe?

Every football team in the world claims to invest in youth development. Who actually does it?

by VICE Sports
20 November 2015, 4:23pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Spain.

The CIES Football Observatory, based in Switzerland, studied the efficiency of the youth academies for the most important football clubs in Europe. Their fascinating study spanned 31 different leagues—practically all of Europe except Bosnia and Macedonia—and 460 youth teams and 11,335 players.

Although it's nearly impossible to judge the quality of the players who reach the first team, the CIES study intends to look at just how many players go from the youth ranks onto the first team. This was the first result:

In this first graphic, FK Partizan from Belgrade ranks first with 78 players from their youth academy now playing professionally—13 of those still at Partizan, a number equaled only by Leveski Sofia of Bulgaria and Olympique Lyonnais from France.

Ajax ranks second, and Barcelona ranks third. Obviously, history tells us that players from Ajax and Barcelona are far better than those from Partizan. But Partizan beats both those storied teams in pure numbers.

What percentage of players on a club's first team came up through their youth ranks? The next graphic shows us. The highest percentage of homegrown players playing on the first team belongs to Belarus' FC Gomel with a stunning 92 percent. Atletico Bilbao ranks fourth with 63 percent, making them easily the top club from Europe's top divisions.

The next graphic shows which teams have no homegrown players on their squad. Premier League sides Bournemouth and Swansea City both make the top 10.

According to this study, Spain is one of the few European nations where the percentage of homegrown players surpasses 20 percent. Perhaps that's not an overwhelming number, but it's a good thing to notice during these turbulent economic times. Maybe it's a good opportunity for clubs to stop spending lavishly on foreign players and to instead invest in their own youth academies.

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