EPL clubs buying home-grown youngsters
English Premier League clubs are spending big on home-grown youngsters in what could be the first indication that they are finally coming to terms with reality.
With UEFA's financial fair play rules looming and a new quota system in place, Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones are poised to join Liverpool and Manchester United respectively for nearly 40 million pounds ($65.69 million).
Although more big-name foreign players are likely to be recruited before next season, early activity in the transfer market indicates a possible change of approach as part of a long-term strategy.
Image: Jordan Henderson
Sensible business prospects
Encouraged by Chris Smalling's assured first-team displays after signing him from Fulham last year at 20, United have targeted 19-year-old Jones, Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea, 20, and perhaps Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell.
These players do not come cheaply as Liverpool found out when they had to pay 35 million pounds for 22-year-old striker Andy Carroll in January but once wages are included in the equation, such deals are better value than signing established players who command much higher salaries.
There is also a sensible business reason because a 20-year-old is likely to retain or increase his transfer value five years on, whereas a player bought at his peak at 28 or 29 becomes a less of an asset once into his 30s.
Image: Andy Carroll
Dalglish worked hard to involve home-grown talent
Clubs are also now operating in the shadow of UEFA's financial fair play rules which will only allow them to take part in European competition if their expenditure is covered by generated revenue.
This has increased the pressure to feed players from their own academies into their first team, something that happens all too rarely with the leading teams at the moment.
They also have a new quota system which obliges them to include eight home-grown players in their squads.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish worked hard last season to involve home-grown talent and it is something likely to be seen increasingly as clubs are forced to work harder to balance the books.
Image: Kenny Dalglish
'Endorsement of the good work going on in the academy system'
On Friday the chairmen of the 20 Premier League clubs will meet to discuss enhancing the current academy system.
The plan includes introducing boarding schools as part of a so-called Elite Player Performance Plan that would dramatically increase the amount of coaching time available for youth players.
Although the scheme is not popular with many lower division clubs, who fear its financial demands will be counter-productive by forcing smaller clubs to abandon academies, the Premier League is fully supportive.
"It is an endorsement of the good work going on in the academy system that academies are developing players of the quality of Henderson and Jones and attracting that level of interest from that level of clubs," a Premier League spokesman said.
Image: The Barclays Premier League trophy
'There's been a lot of intra-Premier League spending'
"What we need to do is to develop even more of those players and that is what the Elite Player Performance Plan is designed to do."
The idea is to allow clubs to house the best teenagers in boarding schools connected to their academies, giving them more intensive footballing tuition along the lines of the institutions long in place in Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina.
The funding behind Manchester City and Chelsea enables them to operate on a different level and they are likely to sign big-name players from abroad and although United have been linked with Inter Milan's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder they are also tracking Aston Villa's England forward Ashley Young.
"In the past few years we have seen quite a lot of intra-Premier League spending," Alex Byars, senior consultant in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, told Reuters.
"In terms of clubs looking to strengthen, they are now looking within the strongest league.
Image: Ashley Young
'Encouraging to see clubs looking at young players with EPL experience'
"It is difficult to adjust to the pace of the Premier League for players coming from abroad who are not used to it.
"It is encouraging to see clubs looking at the longer term by signing young players with Premier League experience."
Many of those players are on duty at the European under-21 championships which kick off this weekend in Denmark and their Premier League experience certainly seems to be paying dividends.
"Every time I have the likes of Smalling, Jones, Henderson and (Daniel) Sturridge and so on, strangely enough we seem to win," said England's under-21 coach Stuart Pearce.
Image: Daniel Sturridge