“You’ll never win anything with kids” was the now infamous quip uttered by legendary Liverpool defender and BBC TV pundit Alan Hansen in 1995 talking about Manchester United.
Alex Ferguson’s youngsters including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt went on to dominate the Premier League for years to come culminating in the 1999 Champions League win over Bayern Munich in Barcelona. Hansen was left to eat his words.
So, you can win things with youth, so which Bundesliga club is the best at bringing its own young players through and establishing them as first team players. A study from the CIES Football Observatory has analysed the big five leagues in Europe and its Bundesliga findings prove interesting reading.
Looking at the 2016-17 season, teams were ranked according to the percentage of minutes played by home-grown players who had been in the employ of the club for at least three seasons between the age of 15 and 21.
- Schalke 35.0%
- Bayern Munich 27.7%
- Bayer Leverkusen 25.1%
- SC Freiburg 22.9%
- Hoffenheim 21.8%
- Werder Bremen 21.7%
- VfL Wolfsburg 21.4%
- Borussia Mönchengladbach 15.7%
- Borussia Dortmund- 15.3%
- 1FC Köln 14.4%
- Eintracht Frankfurt 12.9%
- Mainz 12.1%
- Hertha Berlin 10.4%
- Augsburg 4.4
- Darmstadt 0.0%
- Ingolstadt 0.0%
- Hamburger SV 0.0%
- RB Leipzig 0.0%
Schalke lead the way with the likes of Benedikt Höwedes, Max Meyer, Felix Platte, Thilo Kehrer and keeper Ralf Fährmann — all key first-teamers. The Königsblauen’s conveyor belt of youth talent is renowned in Germany and it is good to see the Ruhr club leading the way.
It may surprise a few people that Bayern are ranked second in the rankings when many consider their financial purchasing power, but with Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and David Alaba all mainstays at the Allianz Arena, it is clearer why they are just behind Schalke.
Bayer Leverkusen and Freiburg also feature in the upper echelons of the table with Benjamin Heinrichs, Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz featuring for the Werkself and Alexander Schwolow, Christian Günter and Nicolas Höfler key men for the Breisgauer.
However, RB Leipzig’s role as public enemy number one will be done no favours by the fact they came bottom without a single home-grown player.
The accusation that the Red Bull financed side are simply buying their way to success and circumventing the traditional ways of German football is only strengthened by these findings. That said, Hamburg, Darmstadt and Ingolstadt also failed to field a single of their own youngsters last season.
Schalke may lead the way in the Bundesliga, but when ranked alongside the Spanish, English, and French top divisions they find themselves in 7th place overall. Athletic Bilbao (64.0%), Real Sociedad (50.1%), Lyon (46.8%), FC Nantes (41.1%) and Toulouse (38.4%) make up the top five.
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