As the majority of global footballing talent is now concentrated in Europe’s top ten sides it’s asking alot for smaller clubs to get anywhere near winning the Champions League. The recent success of Barcelona shows that while the top sides will always need to be in the running for Galacticos when they’re available, there will always be a need to bring players through from the academies. It’s hard to remember the last time the Manchester United academy produced a genuine superstar, which begs asking what Louis van Gaal thinks of the set up and how it compares with what he left behind him many years ago at Ajax. Actually the reason why it’s hard to remember is because the last time it happened was twenty years ago. The player? Paul Scholes.
The famed Ajax academy system judges players using the TIPS (Technique, Intelligence, Personality and Speed) model. Personality and speed are intrinsic to the person, but technique and intelligence can be cultivated. Selection for Ajax’s youth academy depends on a child’s ability and potential to excel in all four areas. Their 1995 Champions League-winning side was remarkable in that – with the exception of Jari Litmanen and Finidi George – it was probably the only home-grown side to win the competition in the last 20 years. It was also one of the more enjoyable sides to watch in recent times. It’s worth remembering that the starting line up of the Inter Milan side that won the 2010 competition didn’t contain one Italian. The following clip provides a small insight into the Ajax Academy.