Column: The pitfalls when evaluating a successful academy– there is a holistic financial model that tells a significant story 

9 December 2020

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Photo: PA Images Jack Grealish, the Aston Villa homegrown captain celebrating a goal against Liverpool FC. Grealish is the perfect example of an academy-player where the club has not yet cashed in, and therefore the valuecreation is often overlooked when evaluating the work of the academy. To buy a player with the same level as Grealish would probably cost Aston Villa a transfer fee of £40 million.

The collective obsession with transfer fees means we will always tend to be drawn into narratives about academy productivity from a pure, tangible monetary perspective.

”But as we know”, writes Omar Chaudhuri from 21st Club, “players aren’t simply assets to be traded, and some of the most important academy players may never sell for a fee.”

Manchester United are estimated to have saved nearly £60 million in player costs thanks to the performance of their academy products last season, suggesting a significant return on their youth development investment.

Omar Chaudhuri. Chief Intelligence Officer, 21st Club contact@offthepitch.com

"We don’t say it’s a business plan, it’s a football programme,” Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar told The Guardian in September, speaking about the club’s phenomenally successful academy. “We want our success with the players we educate. And if in two, three years we win trophies with them and they get a higher level, the interest of other clubs should be there. And those clubs should be bigger. After two to three years, it’s time to move on.”

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