These clubs have gained immensely for incorporating their academy graduates in their first teams.
UEFA defines a homegrown player as someone who irrespective of his nationality has been trained by his current club or any other club from that national association for at least three years between the ages of 15-21.
The continental body’s regulations require the football clubs to include at least eight players who were trained by the clubs belonging to the same national league. Additionally, four of those footballers should belong to that respective club’s own youth system. The English Premier League has their own version to define a homegrown footballer but that is not taken into consideration whilst preparing this list.
Now, let us have a look at five clubs from the top five European leagues with the highest percentage of homegrown players in their squad; according to the UEFA rules.
5. Hertha BSC
Hertha BSC is currently placed in the ninth spot in the Bundesliga points table. However, they are one of the topmost German clubs with regards to promoting their own academy talents to play for the first-team. 10 of the 32 players from their squad fall into the ‘homegrown’ criteria as described by the UEFA.
Some of the notable ones amongst these are Maxmilian Mittelstadt, Arne Maier and Jordan Torunarigha who have made a considerable number of appearances for the side.
Muhammad Kiprit and Julian Albrecht are yet to make their debuts whilst the others are on the fringes of the squad and could be expected to be transitioned to the first-team in the coming times. Overall, 31.3% of players from Hertha BSC’s squad have been nurtured properly by the club itself and it is a laudable figure in all stretch of imaginations.
4. FSV Mainz 05
FSV Mainz 05 have spent a decade in the top-tier of German football and usually occupied the mid-table spots. Though unremarkable, they have at least been consistent in their performances. However, it is interesting to know that 11 out of the 33 players in their squad have risen through the club’s ranks.
The 115 year old entity has very consciously included players groomed by them in the first-team squad. Stefan Bell, the 27-year-old centre-back is one of them and he has already made 177 appearances for the club in the Bundesliga. Robin Zentner and Ridle Baku are the other notable players from this list.
However, it should be noted that five of these 11 players are yet to make their debut which includes the likes of Marveille Papela and Erkan Eyibill amongst others. Naturally, the club might look to induct them on the field as time progresses. Nevertheless, a 33% involvement of homegrown players in the squad is quite an accomplishment.
3. Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo is a club whose local players have managed to continue and achieve immense feats with the club. Leading the charge is Iago Aspas, whose goal-scoring abilities have propelled him to become one of the pioneers of the club. Aspas had been capped 188 times by the club in the top-tier of the Spanish league.
Right-back and captain Hugo Mallo is one amongst the eight players who is one of the youth products and he has turned up 225 times for the team in the La Liga too. Goalkeepers like Sergio Alvarez, Ruben Blanco and Ivan Villar are included in this revered list of players. Alvarez has played an incredible 133 matches for Celta Vigo too.
Eight out of the 24 players from their squad are products of their own developmental sides. This translates to 33.3% of homegrown players in the squad. The ongoing season has been a disappointing one for Celta Vigo as they are presently placed in the 17th spot in the points table. However, their youth development sides have ensured that they churn out talents who are capable of donning the club’s jersey for a consistent period of time.
2. Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao is believed to be one of the pioneers in this aspect of the sport, and it is unsurprising that they hold the second spot in the table for the same. 37.5% of their roster is comprised of footballers who spent the developmental stage of their careers in the club’s structure.
Some of the notable players from this lot is Benat Etxebarria and Iker Muniain who have made 182 and 310 appearances for the club in the La Liga so far. Nine players amongst the 24 present in Bilbao’s squad are the youth products of the club. Only Oihan Sancet and Asier Villalibre have played less than 20 matches in the league for the first-team.
The likes of Yeray Alvarez, Unai Nunez and Unai Lopez have fairly settled with a significant number of appearances and look set to carry forward the club’s legacy with regards to their culture of producing flourishing youth products.
1. Manchester United
Ever since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival, there has been focus on promoting players from the youth structure to the first-team and providing them sizable opportunities to prove their mettle.
The likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have made the most of this opportunity whilst someone like Tahith Chong has arguably fallen behind in the contention. Nevertheless, it is appreciable that 11 out of the 27 players from United’s squad could be slotted under the ‘homegrown’ category. This includes players such as Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay.
Paul Pogba is also a part of the list but his case is entirely peculiar as the club had to pay a then-world record transfer fee to acquire him back from Juventus as the Frenchman had left for the Old Lady at the age of 19. On the other hand, the Red Devils also paid £30 million for Luke Shaw, a then-world record transfer fee for a teenager.
However, Shaw was signed when he was aged 18 years and hence he has continued from then at United and is considered to be their youth product. Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu Mensah are in this list too. In fact, the overall quota increases to 13 youth players from 29 squad members currently as Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Joel Pereira’s loan from Oldham Athletic and Heart of Midlothian FC respectively concluded on May 31, 2020.
However, they were apparently not taken into consideration and hence the percentage figure of youth players in United’s first-team squad is said to be 40.7% and not 44.8%.