With the Bosman ruling more than a decade old now, we’ve come to take freedom of movement within football for granted, but it got me thinking the other day when I saw Athletico Madrid were keen to sign David Bentley. With such an unbelievably high ratio of foreign players to English in the Premier League these days, you would expect a similar proportion of our national stars applying their trade on the continent, right? I cannot think of a single one. Even throwing the net wider, in recent memory the only ones that can be described as achieving anything approaching success abroad are David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves. Sure Michael Owen and Steve McManaman adequately kept the
The BBC yesterday ran a very interesting piece along these same lines, trying to work how precisely France built such an imposing football empire towards the end of the 1990s, winning back-to-back major International tournaments with relative ease, while England languished in mediocrity at best. Speaking to the Beeb, ex-Arsenal and
Howard Wilkinson further attributes much of
Given the money in our league these days, club success is virtually guaranteed, but it’s hard to look at parallel timelines of both national and international performances without seeing an inverse correlation over the last 15 years. In no way do foreign players ruin our league, far from it, but they clearly do affect the production of homegrown talent, and more specifically, their advancement to the very top levels of the game. It’s interesting that in addition to David Bentley finally another English player, Frank Lampard, is also apparently in consideration for a summer move to Europe, and to
Grimandi also spoke at length however about the approach to everyday training at the major club sides his compatriots played with during the 1990s: “I remember talking to Lilian Thuram, who I played with at
But at grass-roots level too the French seem to value different approaches to us, in fact favouring that suggested here last week, with the French Football Federation (FFF) concentrating on club-neutral technical academies. When a player who has been to a regional academy then signs for a professional club, that team pays compensation to the FFF for the two years spent at the academy, to keep the youngsters fresh and competitive, and also to keep plenty of money in the system. Grimandi continued, talking about the FFF’s flagship Clairefountaine academy: “It's a fantastic school for a young player and is an environment that prepares them for a life as a professional footballer - 75%-80% of players who attend these academies would join a professional club.”
So will the FA direct their planned £200mill towards this kind of set-up? Trevor Brooking, the current FA direct of development, cites his primary aim over the next 5 years to make sure our youngsters are simply more comfortable on ball by the age of 11, but what do the FFF have in the pipeline for next year’s academy influx at that age? Biomechanical training and computerized player simulation, as part of an individual-specific program of developing flexibility, balance and movement. Sounds like science-fiction in comparison to us right? So how do we consistently manage to be about ten steps behind everyone else? Surely that should be the FA’s primary concern now, because as is, this state of affairs is just baffling.