Does Platini have a point about trade in teenagers?

November 1, 2007

Wenger speaks at a news conferenceCriticism of Arsene Wenger occurs about as frequently as a Cesc Fabregas misplaced pass. The Frenchman has enjoyed unanimous praise for the football and results his side have produced this season, but there is at least one powerful man who has not been entirely impressed.

UEFA president Michel Platini is upset with the way Wenger has assembled his squad.

“I do not like the system of Arsène Wenger,” Platini said this week. “In France, Italy and Spain it is easy to buy with money the best players at 14, 15 or 16. I don’t like that. If the best clubs buy the best 15 or 16 players, [then it] is finished for all the clubs in Europe. If my son is playing at Millwall and at 16 Manchester United come in for this player, then when will Millwall have a good team?”

With Arsenal having to finance the cost of building the Emirates Stadium, Wenger’s acumen has been timely. Wenger plucked Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and many more when they were all teenagers, from various clubs across the world and for minimal cost.

Former Tottenham Hotspur boss Martin Jol spent nearly £60 million on players in the past two seasons and paid the price of not achieving the necessary success, whereas Wenger has generally broken even on his transfer activity over the past four seasons.

Is Platini right to question Wenger’s methods? Should he propose a ruling to block the movement of Under-18 players, or is there nothing wrong with the Arsenal manager’s approach?

He is certainly not alone. To choose just one example, you may not have heard of Gerardo Bruna yet (check the link), but if reports are right, and Liverpool have done their homework, the 16-year-old will be the next foreign teenager to star in the Premier League. Cost to the English club? About 40 million euros less than it cost to bring in Torres.


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These criticisms are ridiculous, Wenger is a talented manager who knows how to run a club. In fact with a club like Arsenal, the young players will most likely develop into better overall talent than if they spent their teenage years at a club like Millwall.

If Wenger were to wait and buy the players when they were older and more talented, he would be criticized for that too…just like Mourinho at Chelsea.

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

In an ideal situation, each team should set up their own youth development and turn the local lads into fighting machines. But when it comes to talents, it doesn’t work that way. Money talks.

I don’t mind Arsene Wenger collecting talents from around the world so long as each player emerges from from his tutelage better than before. No point going to a super rich club and languish there.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I feel a bit sorry for the lad Bruna, having to put up with being called the New Messi all the time when he hasn’t done anything at all yet. Still the million quid contract might ease the pain a bit.

Posted by Elena | Report as abusive

[…] Speaking of teens, Platini doesn’t like Arsenal hording the best ones (Reuters Soccer Blog) […]

Posted by Daily Dose 11.01.07 – World Football – The Offside – Soccer News and Opinion from leagues around the world | Report as abusive

I would infact say Wenger is a genious. He and his team spots talent at a young age from around the world and then bring them to Arsenal to make them stars. All this spending far less money than on big stars, who may be past their prime or are in their prime but then at a hefty price tag.

And Arsenal being among the top clubs in Europe, the youngsters get quality training, infrastructure, quality opponents… that will groom them to reach the top.

Posted by Nachiket Kelkar | Report as abusive

I’m with Platini on this one. Young players might train in a better environment at a big club, though I wonder if this makes a big difference. In the end, the small clubs that developed the young talent must have done something right as well.

So, what happens is that the rich big clubs get the best young talent basically for free. That’s obviously a smart business model, given the fact that you could go on and sell this talent for €10m-€30m again. Money that would otherwise do wonders for a smaller club, but now stacks up where the money is anyway.

Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos is a perfect example. He was trained at Rostock but moved to Bayern Munich at the age of sixteen. Rostock is in deep financial trouble and will spend their season trying to avoid relegation. Kroos could have been a big help for the club on the pitch and he could have helped the club’s finances with a multimillion transfer later.

Posted by Jan | Report as abusive

I worry about the gathered talent who don’t make it. All the kids who spend their teens away from family and friends then never break into the ‘big time’.

Arsenal’s approach is far from unique, I remember Dutch football being held up as a glowing example of youth development twenty years ago, when they were doing the same thing.

Posted by Mike Whalley | Report as abusive

Mike is right about the kids who don’t make it. The big clubs are casting their nets ever wider and it inevitably means they’re going to take more risks, offering big contracts to players who just won’t be that successful (whether because of talent or difficulties in adjusting to life on the other side of the world).

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Well, Kevin the same holds true with experienced players as well. Fernando Morientes who made a high profile entry at Liverpool only to shipped out of England in two seasons and Chelsea’s Shevchenko are the best recent examples. (Difficulties in adjusting to a different league and country)

But look at some examples of young ones – Fabregas, Van Persie at Arsenal, Lennon at Spurs, today they are highly rated at this young age, of course for their footballing skills, but is not because even the clubs are recognised around the world? And all of them have settled in so well.

Also a test case is Theo Walcott who is now a star footballer in England. How many people knew about him and his life at lower division club Southampton before Arsene Wenger discovered him?

Posted by Nachiket Kelkar | Report as abusive

Nachiket, I’m not a Southampton fan but I would not suggest that Arsene Wenger discovered Theo Walcott. He had been playing consistently well in the reserve team and the first team before he came to the attention of the Arsenal manager.

He merely had enough money to pay for him. Platini’s comments are inflammatory but he does have a point. The big teams drain away the talent and it is sad because some of these players never make it at a big club and would have been better off staying where they were.

Posted by online sports guy | Report as abusive