One of the biggest gripes that I and other Liverpool fans have about the club in recent years has been the lack of young talent coming through the youth system. With the rumoured departures of both Daniel Ayala and Dani Pacheco, I think it is about time I reflected once again on what is going on with the Reds academy.
I’ve been over many times the difficulties in England specifically as to why it is difficult to run a top class youth academy with home grown players. The fact that club’s are only allowed to recruit youngsters who live 30 minutes from the club’s training ground and the fact they have to purchase players outside of the catchment area from smaller clubs whose youth facilities are poor in comparison and who are generally bought too late in their development to iron out the technical deficiencies in their game.
The interests of smaller clubs, who rely on youth development to sell their best players for large fees to keep the club running, do however hamper the development to an extent of their youngsters. Barcelona’s La Masia training academy can never be replicated in England in this regard for Barca can recruit across Spain and they start their formal courses at age 12. It hasn’t stopped Liverpool from trying though after recruiting two old La Masia stalwarts in Pep Segura and Rodolfo Borrell, but what they have inevitably found though is a completely different environment to the one they left in Spain. A state of affairs that Borrell described as “unacceptable” when he arrived last summer.
With home grown talent being something of a rarity in some of English football’s top academies though, and the belief that something needed to change to assist the development of young English footballers, the Premier League will introduce a quota system which will mean 8 out of a 25 man squad list must be “home grown” when registered at the end of the summer transfer window. “Home grown” doesn’t necessarily mean English though as players only have to be trained for three years under 21 in England or Wales to qualify. This means that both Dani Pacheco and Emiliano Insua would qualify as home grown.
This makes it even more concerning then that a player such as Dani Pacheco may be allowed to leave this summer, and brings me on to the question as to whether Reds youngsters are being given the chance to shine at Anfield. The biggest problem that certainly needs to be addressed in England is the lack of competitive football for our youngsters. In Spain and Germany all big clubs have B teams which play in the lower leagues of the professional game. Youngsters get tested to a much higher level than ours who play pretty meaningless reserve team football. The only real solution for English teams is to loan our players out.
Hopefully both Ayala and Pacheco’s rumoured moves to Spain are just loans for them to gain experience. If this is the case than I applaud the decision but in Ayala’s case, according to Skysports.com, his proposed loan move to Real Valladolid is in view to a permanent deal. If this is true than I despair, because we are really not giving any of our young players the chance to shine. What is the point of buying a player from abroad at a young age, training him up, and returning him to his home country, only for him to excel? A player like Mikel San Jose came to play here for two years before returning to Spain at Bilbao to be a first team regular, yet he never got a first team appearance for Liverpool. The clamour for the inclusion in first team affairs for Krisztian Nemeth is a case in point, many believe he has the potential to play in the Premier League but he was shipped out to AEK Athens last season and he may also return there this season.
Of course, it maybe true that these players are just not good enough for Liverpool FC, and in recent seasons that has certainly been the case where most, if not all Liverpool Academy players have gone on to play at a lower level, rather than playing in the Premier League. If Kenny Dalglish does take on a new more formal role with the academy though, he must fight his corner for his young players as there will be a few like Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling and perhaps Conor Coady, who could really make it. He must persuade Roy Hodgson to show more faith than has been the case in the past. Hodgson has of course bigger worries in getting the Reds back to where we belong, and it would be a risk for him to shown faith in players which are unproven. The only way to find out in some cases though is to try them and see if they cut it at Premier League level.
Follow us on twitter @live4Liverpool
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at firstname.lastname@example.org