06 Nov Munich’s Junior Legacy: Success Breeds Success
SO, Germany are now a technical powerhouse and up there with, if not even beyond, Spain in terms of developing talented young players who quickly progress to the top of the European and world game!
It’s certainly what a lot of Irish football fans have been saying since last Friday and when you take into the account the whirlwind impact of Germany’s new-look youthful sides on the last three major international tournaments it is hard to argue.
So, what is the secret? Well, just like Spain, whose current international dominance is backboned by an historic flourishing of FC Barcelona’s youth policy – which we looked at last week – the current German national team really has one standout contributor also.
No less than five Bayern Munich players made Germany’s starting eleven in last week’s humbling of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, with double goalscoring substitute Toni Kroos (left) making it six representatives on the night.
When you take into account the fact that club and international captain Philip Lahm would have started if available and that goalscorer Miroslav Klose and substitute Lukas Podolski have only recently left the same club, it is quite impressive.
Of course, the likes of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng are big-money domestic imports, just as Klose and Podolski were before them.
However, still, the classy way in which Germany put Ireland to the sword and have earned the support of most neutrals during the last three international tournaments is steeped in Bayern DNA.
Defender Holger Badstuber and Kroos look certain to follow Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in being as central to future German success as Xavi and Iniesta have been to Spain’s dominance.
The former pair joined the club’s famous youth system as 13 and 16-year-olds respectively, while the latter duo started at an even younger combined age – starting at 11 and 14 – while winger Thomas Muller also joined the club at 11.
But, before we examine Bayern’s youth policy it is important to state from the start that by no means is it a general examination of the cultural change in German football away from the mechanical and efficient method with which they won tournaments like the World Cup in 1990 to the exciting brand of technique and flair we now love about them.
While we hope to come back in the near future to the more general renaissance in German football that was started almost two decades ago, Bayern Munich alone is our focus here and the club actually does not appear to be to German football what Barcelona is to Spanish football – contrary to popular opinion.
Barcelona continue to be the best at the unique dedication to young technical players that has obviously influenced their domestic rivals, but a close examination of Bayern shows Germany’s most successful club are by no means top of the development pile, pound for pound.
Barca have and will always have some of the best young talent at every level of the Spanish under-age system, but a quick google of Germany’s international age groups illustrates that Bayern players are spread very sparsely down from Under-21 to Under-16 level.
In fact, between the seven age groups below the senior international team (U21, U20, U19, U18, U17, U16, U15) there is, incredibly, barely a handful of representatives at this present time.
Surely that is an unthinkable statistic for a club that prides itself on having an academy structure that stands alongside La Masia at the top of the European scene?
Well, when you compare the ratio of purchased international players in the Bayern first team to domestic homegrown graduates with the likes of Barcelona the proof is very much in the pudding – both clubs are opposites.
So, what is it that this club want from their youth system, which has been locally known as the Bayern Junior Team since its foundation way back in 1902 – restructured in 1995?
“Bayern will always bring ‘stars’ from other clubs but we also want players coming from our Youth Academy, because they fully identify with our club.”
Chief Executive and former European Cup winning striker Karl-Heinz Rummineigge
The key word in that statement from one of their greatest ever players is “identify”, because most of all Bayern demand that their youngsters represent the club’s unique IDENTITY.
So what is the club’s identity? Basically, it is SUCCESS.
Bayern Munich are the most successful club in the history of German football, having won 22 league titles and capturing the European Cup/Champions League on no less than four times – most famously during their three-in-a-row during the 1970s.
What is really important is the influence of some the key individuals in that incredible team that dominated Europe from 1974-76 and backboned the Germany team that came within one game of adding the 76 European Championships to their 72 title and 74 World Cup crown.
As shown above, Rummineigge, is the chief executive, while midfielder Uli Hoeness went on to become general manager and president before taking up his current role as chairman.
That’s not to mention the constant influence of Der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer – the legendary sweeper – on the club for the last 40 years.
These three men are the figureheads of a standard set by the club a long time ago and one that they aim to maintain.
While you could imagine the odd Barcelona president letting the chips fall whichever way they will as long as the first team is predominantly built from Catalan graduates off the La Masia conveyer belt, Bayern only want the best.
If they have to buy from abroad or domestically to build a title or Champions League wining team than so be it, but the club provides the best for its youngsters with the belief that those who do come through will be the best.
It is hardly surprising considering the Barca principles put in place by Johan Cruyff in the late 1980s were in response to the success of Bayern and his own Ajax side a generation earlier.
When it came to Bayern rejuvenating their own youth policy in 95, the new method was to help repeat past results, while the Spanish club, who would only win their first European Cup 15 years after Cruyff’s input, had no tradition of continental success and placed method over result.
Barca’s recent European dominance is a consequence of their youth policy, while Bayern under-age set-up is in reaction to past successes, so while Barca hoped to be successful with their model, Bayern are desperate to bring back European success in particular.
So, at a cost of 3million euro a year, the German club’s state-of-the-art training centre at Sabener Strasse in a leafy suburb of Munich trains roughly 185 players at this moment in time.
It is known as the ‘nerve centre’ of the club, hosting the fan centre, club offices, professional training quarters and youth academy of course.
Like Barca, tradition, values and history are key principles Bayern youngsters are brought up on in the nine junior teams beneath the first and second senior sides.
Ninety percent of the players invited to join – no players are admitted, they must be selected from a talent day or scouted by one of the 15 regional coaches or 10 national coaches – are from Bavaria.
Interestingly, while Barca hire young coaches with minimum experience elsewhere, Bayern demand the best – with U8 coaches upwards expected to have a UEFA B license and U13 bosses upwards, mostly former players, requiring a UEFA Pro License.
To put that in perspective, the only coaches in Ireland required to have a Pro License are Airtrcity League managers, but it once again shows that success and winning is the identity Bayern covet most.
To ram home the point that this club does not just look to populate its first team with homegrown players, but rather produce future Champions League winners, their philosophy is a no-nonsense one.
“The cornerstone of the Bayern philosophy is to integrate mental and physical strength in players. Although this attitude may seem somewhat aggressive, the club aims to be the best youth academy not only in Germany but also beyond its immediate borders.”
The bottom line is it would appear to be working for Bayern Munich as their current first team, who were Champions League runners up last season, is a combination of local talent nurtured since the beginning, alongside the best domestic teenagers later integrated into the system and propped up by international star signings.
German international Kroos was scouted and taken from a rival club at 16, just as Austrian international David Alaba (left) – who terrorized Real Madrid in last year’s Champions League semi-final – was brought from his homeland at the same age.
If the likes of Lahm, Muller and Badstuber are diamonds made from coal by the club, than Kroos and Alaba are proof that Bayern are just as happy to use their world-class ‘football factory’ to simply shine up the already formed ones found elsewhere.
Another case in point is current teenage sensation Emre Can, who looks likely to make his senior league debut this season.
Signed from Eintracht Frankfurt at the age of 15, Can is seen as the future of German football and in particular his goal against Mexico in the semi-finals of last year’s U-17 World Cup in the video below adds weight to that argument.
Can may or may not go on to be a huge success with Germany, just as Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Kroos have been, but one thing is for sure: he is proof that Bayern Munich are producing players the right way – even if it is there own way.