Ajax Amsterdam have the most prolific academy in Europe for producing young soccer talent while Slovakian clubs lead the way in terms of fielding home-grown players, according to a report from a Swiss-based institute.
The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) conducted a survey of Europe’s most competitive 31 leagues last year and found 69 players who had been coached at the Dutch club.
CIES considered a “club-trained player” to be someone who had spent at least three seasons with a team between the ages of 15 and 21.
In Ajax’s case it included Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg SV), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Urby Emanuelson (Fulham), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur) and Gregory van der Wiel (Paris Saint-Germain).
Clubs in the poorest leagues generally fielded the highest proportion of players from their own academies, with an average figure of around 27 percent.
These leagues included Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus and Finland.
“For teams whose championships are of limited financial means, the setting up of a sporting and economic model based on the value-added development of young talents depends strongly on their ability to coach them,” the report said.
The figure dropped to only 17.2 percent for the big five leagues of England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain and was even lower at 15.2 percent in the next richest group including Portugal, Scotland, Netherlands, Turkey, Greece and Russia.
The percentage varied substantially between leagues of a similar level.
Among the poorer leagues Slovakia boasted an average of 40 percent of players at clubs where they had been coached, but this dropped to 11 percent in Cyprus.