In the past month Borussia Dortmund technical director Michael Zorc and Germany FA director of national teams and academy Oliver Bierhoff have spoken out about youth development in Germany falling behind their rivals.English academies received a big thumbs up from Zorc, who believes England now produce better young players than Germany. Bierhoff, as part of the fall out from a disastrous Word Cup, has called for changes in the way young players are developed in Germany to focus more on individual skills.
We might find out what Germany’s top clubs are doing about this when Timon Pauls, head of youth recruitment at Bayern Munich, who recently made a £40m bid for Chelsea teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi, speaks at the Football Innovation Summit in London (April 1-2) about player development in Germany and the relationship between club and country. Hudson-Odoi, of course, played alongside Jadon Sancho in the England Under-17 team that thrashed their German counterparts 8-1 in October 2016 before being crowned world champions 12 months later. It is the performances of the England youth teams and Sancho since he joined Dortmund from Manchester City in August 2017, that have helped inform Zorc’s view, which appears to be backed up by Bayern’s transfer policy.
He said: “We have the feeling that, yes, the education and development of youth players in the English Academies is quite good, to be honest. “ You know the English teams are reaching Under-17, Under-19 [finals] compared to the German ones. It seems to me that they overtook us. “When you see these youth academies – for example Man City – you can’t compare it with the German standard. It’s much higher, much higher. “As part of his analysis for Germany’s poor 2018 World Cup, Bierhoff was critical of the youth development system in Germany. During a two-hour presentation titled “Back to the top of the World” he noted that the new generation of German players lack on-pitch problem solving skills, which the likes of Sancho display.
The belief is that training is focused more on the group and less on developing individual talent which is now seen as the key to success in an era of tight defensive lines.Bierhoff said: “We need to get back to the full potential of our talent pool; we need to develop our junior teams in the best possible way. We have a lot of talent in Germany, but turning these talents into exceptional players who can be the best in the world is the big challenge. “We need room for individualists, we need more football pitch mentality. It needs more feeling again. Through freer training, street football should be brought into the clubs. We need to create more space for creativity and enjoyment for our players.” The calls for ‘freer training, street football’ highlight yet another nation who can be said to be ahead of Germany in terms of player development. Kris Van Der Haegen was responsible for implementing the exact philosophy change Bierhoff is calling for in his role as Belgium FA Director of Coach Education.
He will talk about how the World Cup semi-finalist’s transitioned from focusing on team development to focusing on individual development at the Football Innovation Summit on April 1. Ironically, Belgium’s change in coaching methods came following a poor showing at Euro 2000, just like the current Germany set up.