All young footballers dream of making it to the big leagues one day but only the best are able to make that dream a reality. It takes devotion, hard work and time to learn and develop the skills to become a great player. Most kids begin playing football in the street or the park but eventually need to join a youth academy to progress towards playing for a first team. Globally, there are thousands of football academies but only a few have a world-renowned reputation. Here are the 10 youth academies considered to be the best football academies in the world.
10 best football academies in the world
10. FK Partizan Academy
The FK Partizan Youth School, also known as the Belin–Lazarević–Nadoveza youth school, is the youth academy for Serbian football club Partizan Belgrade. Omladinska škola Fudbalskog kluba Partizan was founded in 1950 and named after former Partizan players Bruno Belin, Čedomir Lazarević and Branko Nadoveza.
Serbians are incredibly passionate about football, and it has often been thanks to the efforts of Partizan Belgrade that they can enjoy some top players in their national squad. Lazar Markovic and Andrija Zivkovic are probably the two biggest names to develop there recently. Partizan Belgrade have won multiple awards for its youth work, including “Best European Youth Work” in 2006. Definitely one of the best football academies in the world.
9. Club Atlético River Plate
Considered among the most successful Argentinian football clubs, the River Plate football academy has many scouts searching for talents on the streets of Argentina. The youth academy was created in 1901 and is recognized all over the world for the amount of talents that have emerged throughout it.
The lower divisions of River Plate, also known as “El Semillero” are considered to be the most fruitful of Argentina and is seen as one of the best training schools of Latin America. Two players who won the Ballon d’Or, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Omar Sívori, came from “El Semillero”. More recently the academy has also produced players such as Herman and Pablo Aimar.
8. FC Bayern Munich Junior Team
The FC Bayern Munich Junior Team is the youth academy for German football club Bayern Munich. The youth academy was created in 1902 and their mission is to educate young players so that it will be possible for FCB to keep a global position in club football. Die Rekordmeister has scouts operating all over the world, though most of the scouting is done within the vicinity of the city Munich.
Notable players coming out of the youth acacamy include Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, David Alaba, Sammy Kuffour and Owen Hargreaves. All of them spent many of their formative years at the Säbener Strasse youth academy.
7. GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy
The GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy was founded on 27 December 1967. The youth academy now holds a record relating to the FIFA World Cup. No other clubs has had more home-grown players in a FIFA World Cup final than Dinamo Zagreb’s Youth Academy. 14 players in the current Croatia National team played for Dinamo Zagreb during their football career.
In 2011 the Dinamo Zagreb Academy was awarded one of the 6 Best Youth Academies in Europe by UEFA. Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Luka Modric (Real Madrid) and Sime Vrsaljko all emerged from the GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy, putting it seventh on our list of the best football academies in the world.
Many European top players came out of the Anderlecht youth academy, which is located in Neerpede. An important factor in guiding the young players is the focus on working together with local schools after the father of Romelu Lukaku asked Anderlecht if they could provide his son school, accommodation and football education. This collaboration is now known as the ‘Purple Talents Project’ and its commitment to focusing on the player’s development makes it stand out as one of the best football academies.
As the youth academy nurtured talents keep on making it to Europe’s top clubs, it steadily continues to live up to its reputation. The most famous players to emerge from the Anderlecht youth academy include former Man City legend Vincent Kompany and Inter striker Romelu Lukaku. More recently we have had Youri Tielemans (Leicester), who is considered one of the biggest talents in the Premier League.
Ajax’s youth academy is famous all over the world for producing young talent. Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Wim Kieft, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert are a few of names who became world stars after successfully completing their education at the Ajax youth academy. Central within the club are the tactics (4-3-3 wing play), training, behavior and house rules.
More recently, the AFC Ajax Youth Academy produced players like Donny van de Beek, Christian Eriksen, Frenkie de Jong, Justin Kluivert and Matthijs de Ligt. Sportcomplex De Toekomst is the name of the training ground of AFC Ajax. With a capacity of 5,000 it serves as home grounds for the reserves team and Jong Ajax. The Ajax youth academy also produced different Belgian players, because of a previous collaboration with Germinal Beerschot.
4. Sporting Lisbon
The Sporting youth academy occupies 4th place in terms of youth training in European football, in a study undertaken by the International centre for Sports Studies (CIES). A total of 54 players produced at the Sporting Academy can be found across European teams, eight of which are still playing at Sporting Lisbon. Though Benfica and Porto have a great youth academy too, the Sporting academy is the best academy in Portugal and one of the best football academies in the world.
The Sporting CP Youth Academy developed footballers such as Ballon d’Or recipients Cristiano Ronaldo and Luís Figo. Aside from these two star players, the academy has produced more than 100 players who have gone to represent Portugal at the national level and also featured prominently in their later clubs.
The Santos Futebol Clube Reserves and Academy consist of the reserve and academy teams of Santos FC. The main objective of their youth academy is to discover talented young players who have future potential to play for Santos’ first team. The Santos youth academy is our pick from the best football academies in Latin America.
The biggest name to come out of the Santos youth academy is Pele, who began his career at Santos. But Pele is not the only big name to have had his education at their youth academy, in recent years Santos also produced great players such as Neymar Jnr and Robinho.
2. Athletic Bilbao
The youth academy of Athletic Bilbao is called the ‘Cantera’ and has the goal of developing players from childhood through to the integration into the first team. The club has come to rely almost exclusively on their youth academy as they only allow players native to the Basque region in their squad.
“Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación” is the slogan of the club: “with homegrown talent and local support, you don’t need imports.” Together with Barcelona and Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao hold the record for being in Primera Division the longest. The 3 teams have been playing in La Liga since 1929 and have never been relegated.
La Masia de Can Planes, usually shortened to La Masia. In English it translates to ‘The Farmhouse’ and is the term used for the FC Barcelona youth academy. The academy has more than 300 young talents and has a big influence on the success of the club. La Masia de Can Planes originally was an old Catalan farmhouse, built in 1702. In 1979, it was first used by the club to develop its talents.
Easily top of the best football academies in the world, La Masia has produced numerous young players that have made it in top clubs around the world. In November 2012, Barcelona had 11 players on the field who all were homegrown stars. In 2010, the three nominees for the Ballon d’Or came out of the Barcelona youth academy: Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. No other youth academy does better than the one located in Barcelona and this makes La Masia the best of all football academies.
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