Why is Bundesliga the ideal environment for the best young players?

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan delves deeper to find out why the Bundesliga seems to be the best league for youngsters to thrive in.

In the modern age of the sport, it is not uncommon to see young prospects move to a less-competitive league – be it on loan or permanent transfer – in a bid to get more playing time and gain some final lessons before being ready for top-level professional football.

Which makes it all the more interesting that some of the brightest talents are choosing to move to the Bundesliga as sort of a “finishing school”, despite the competition’s reputation as one of the world’s best and most-competitive leagues.

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Bear in mind – the Bundesliga is one of just four nations, along with England, Spain and Italy, to be allocated four berths in the UEFA Champions League, and also boasts the highest average attendance across the continent of 44,000.

In any result-oriented era where success is largely the main measurement of a progress, how is the German football league juggling maintaining its standing in world football while being a premium destination for the best talents across the globe?

Muller, Schweinsteiger and Lahm – three Bayern graduates that went on to win the World Cup.

Before delving deeper, perhaps it is important to take a look at some real case scenarios.

Two of the best performers from England’s victorious 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup side were Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster of Manchester City and Liverpool respectively

In the two seasons since then, Foden has shown glimpses of quality but is yet to force his way into Pep Guardiola’s starting XI, while Brewster – hampered by injury – is still waiting for his Premier League debut.

On the other hand, Jadon Sancho – one of only two players from that squad not based in England at the time – has made 23 appearances for Borussia Dortmund this season alone, weighing in with eight goals and 10 assists in the process, and is viewed as the Three Lions’ hottest prospect at the moment.

And this trend is not restricted to the English.

Having left Paris Saint-Germain in search of first-team action at in the summer of 2017, Dortmund’s French defender Dan-Axel Zagadou – at the age of 19 – was statistically the Bundesliga’s best defender in the first half of the campaign.

Top 5 Defenders of the 2018/19 Bundesliga so far

Outside of Europe, United States international Tyler Adams has made an instant impact since moving to RB Leipzig despite having to make a step up from Major League Soccer, while South Korean Jeong Woo-yeong seems to be on the verge of a Bundesliga debut with Bayern Munich having already tasted Champions League action.

As part of a recent media visit organised by the Bundesliga, Asian media were shown around both the Bayern and RB Leipzig academies, where the next generation is nurtured and prepared for the world of professional football.

RB Leipzig are the first club to use “SoccerBot360” as part of their training regime.

Both facilities were highly impressive and structured to provide the best environment for these teenage prospects.

State-of-the-art equipment to aid them on the field.

Specific diets and nutrition, education and lodging to keep them comfortable off the field.

But one would imagine that these would also be present in academies all across Europe’s top leagues.

So, what truly sets the Bundesliga apart?

When probed on the topic by FOX Sports Asia, Reiss Nelson, on loan at Hoffenheim from Arsenal and currently the club’s joint-third highest scorer in the league on six goals, replied: “I don’t know if they nurture [youngsters] better than the other leagues but they definitely give you a chance when you’re young.

 

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“The Bundesliga teams are not scared to throw youngsters into the mix and, if you’re good enough then you’re old enough as well.

“They go by this rule and, like you said, I think Tyler, Sancho, even Emile [Smith-Rowe] who just came from Arsenal… everyone gets their chance to play and then it’s up to them how they perform.”

Nelson’s sentiments were echoed by 20-year-old Adams, with both players having come up against each other in Monday’s 1-1 draw between Hoffenheim and Leipzig.

“I don’t know if it’s how the Germans think about developing young players,” the American told FOX Sports Asia. “But, at so many clubs around this league, guys are getting opportunities to play and that’s so important.

“It’s not just about practice or training with the first team. It’s about getting game time and that’s who you’re going to progress and ultimately make the next step in your career.”

Again, that is not to say that other major clubs in Europe do not share the same mentality.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Arsenal are just some of the clubs that have a rich heritage of bringing youngsters through, but they are often the exception to the norm in their respective leagues.

Perhaps what makes such an attractive proposition for an aspiring footballer is that fact that, wherever they go amongst the league’s 18 clubs, they know that they will get their chance as part of a competition-wide philosophy.

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