Ajax have the most prolific academy in Europe for producing young talent while Manchester United (17th) are the only British club to even crack the top 20.

The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) conducted a survey of Europe's most competitive 31 leagues last year and found 69 players who had been coached at the Dutch club.

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Four-times European champions Ajax were followed by Partizan Belgrade, Hajduk Split and Barcelona with Sporting Lisbon and MTK Budapest level in fifth place.


CIES considered a "club-trained player" to be someone who had spent at least three seasons with a team between the ages of 15 and 21.

In Ajax's case it included Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg SV), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Urby Emanuelson (Fulham), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Gregory van der Wiel (Paris St Germain) and Maarten Stekelenburg (AS Roma).

Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, South African Steven Pienaar and Uruguay's Luis Suarez also played for the Dutch side early in their careers but did not qualify as club-trained players under the report's criteria.

Clubs in the poorest leagues generally fielded the highest proportion of footballers from their own academies, with an average figure of around 27 per cent.

These leagues included Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus and Finland.

"For teams whose championships are of limited financial means, the setting up of a sporting and economic model based on the value-added development of young talents depends strongly on their ability to coach them," said the report.

The figure dropped to only 17.2 per cent for the big five leagues of England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain and was even lower at 15.2 per cent in the next richest group including Portugal, Scotland, Netherlands, Turkey, Greece and Russia.

The percentage varied substantially between leagues of a similar level.

Among the poorer leagues Slovakia boasted an average of 40 per cent of players at clubs where they had been coached but this dropped to 11 per cent in Cyprus.

The report said for many clubs it was simply impossible to hang on to their own players for long.

"For a majority the only viable goal is to coach and add value to young players and transfer them to wealthier clubs," it explained.

"Many teams with limited resources are in a chronic situation of financial and managerial instability that goes against the setting up of long-term coaching policies and giving young talent their chance.

"This instability is reinforced by intermediaries with increasing influence whose personal gain is the sale and purchase of players and who rely on the networks associated with coaches and heads of clubs," the report added.

Text: Reuters

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