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Youth Players and their Importance to Football Clubs: The Example of Dinamo Zagreb

Relentlessly ambitious and commercialized professional clubs recruit thousands of boys into intensive, four‑times‑a‑week training from the age of eight. Their development is of great importance for the clubs as well as their stakeholders. But why is this happening? Is it economically viable to invest in the training of young home-grown athletes, while time is pressing for good results?

Abstract

This research reviews the benefits, both financial and executive, of having a squad filled up with players that grew up in the club’s academy. Dinamo Zagreb is used as the model for this review, and its transfer activity along with its financial benefits are discussed. Also, a forecasting technique was used in order to define whether Dinamo Zagreb should continue this policy.

Introduction

Currently, thousands of players are prevented from following their potential careers every year, possibly because the system itself comprised by the clubs along with the fans does not have the required patience to wait for their growth. Their development is shattered under the pressure of good performances and their dreams of a successful professional career fade exponentially over time.

However, creating and exploiting young talents should be considered as a primary responsibility for every club in the world, as having players from the academy in the lineup surges the economical sustainability of every team. The cost to train such young players in order to reach their full potential is significantly lower from the future fee that is going to be received. Not to mention also, the fact that a team consisting of athletes being raised in a particular club clearly gives rise to passion, commitment and personal development inside that team.

Unfortunately, over the last decades only a small amount of clubs has followed this youth model. Some examples are Barcelona with its famous Masia, Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich and finally, Dinamo Zagreb, in which we will focus on the current research.

 

Data Collection & Methodology

For the conduction of this report, data about transferred players and according costs was collected from season 2007/2008. The sources are referenced in the end of the research under bibliography. Also, it has to be mentioned that each season is abbreviated only with the first year in the graphs. For instance, season 2010/2011 is depicted as 2010 only.

The players taken into account are all youngsters that spent at least two years in Dinamo Zagreb under 17 or Dinamo Zagreb Youth and potentially transferred to other, more prestigious, clubs. Only players that were sold for more than 0.8 €M were used for the purposes of the current research.

Results & Discussion

Average Age

To begin with, it is interesting to take a look into Dinamo squad’s average age in the last decade, from 2007/2008 up to season 2017/2018. It can be observed that Dinamo Zagreb has a relatively young squad, something that more or less highlights the use of players coming from the youth team. Apart from season 2015/2016, the rest of lineups does not exceed the average age of 25.5 years old, while in 2012 and 2013 the average age is unprecedented in really low levels (23.7 and 23.8, respectively).

 

Transfer Market Activity

However, as stated before, a club relying on youth has to eventually sell them in order to finance the next generation of talents and ensure, in this way, its viability. In the following graph the activity of Dinamo Zagreb in the transfer market is depicted. It is illustrated that Dinamo’s income, with the exception of season 2011/2012, is always greater than the expenditure. Specifically, in 2007, 2008 and 2016 the club managed to gain more than 30 €M during these transfer windows, individually.

 

Dinamo Zagreb succeeded in selling more than 15 players from its academy in this decade. A compelling fact is that the one and only year that Dinamo failed to sell a youngster, is actually the year in which the team showed negative financial difference in the transfer market (season 2011/2012). This information adds up to the fact that Dinamo heavily relies on the creation and training of young players from its own youth system.

Another interesting fact is that over 45% of young athletes transferred to popular foreign clubs were sold for more than 10 €M. This fact adds up to the nationality of these talents, as the vast majority comes from Croatia. In this way, the Croatian football is enhanced and not surprisingly, the national team has managed to reach the final of this year’s World Cup in Russia, having a lot of Dinamo’s youngsters in its squad.

 

A Glimpse in the Near Future

However, the real question is whether Dinamo Zagreb will be able to continue this policy in developing young talents to promising footballers and exploiting in this way their potential. The sustainability of the club heavily relies on its transfer market activity, as indicated above.

Therefore, a forecasting model was used in order to determine if the same trend will be followed in the next two years, season 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. Forecasting is the process of making predictions of the future based on past and present data. The data used must be up to date so as for the forecast to be as accurate as possible. The confidence level is chosen to be equal to 95%.

According to the linear forecasting technique, Dinamo Zagreb is expected to continue making profit in the following seasons, as the fee that is going to be received in these 2 years might be around 42 €M. This amount of income will allow Dinamo to further invest in potential talents and thrive against its opponent in the domestic league and cup competitions.

 

Summary

To sum up, Dinamo Zagreb’s policy seems to be favorable for the club itself, as it had managed to retain the league several times, while having a quite big activity in the transfer markets over this period of 10 years. This approach is expected to be followed in the near future, as the economical benefits are characterized as, at least, adequate for the viability of a club of this structure.

 


 

Bibliography

BASKETBALL, C., FOOTBALL, C., Us, A., Kit, P. and Harmer, A. (2018). Top 20 Academies In World Soccer. [online] TheSportster. Available at: https://goo.gl/PqPD5D [Accessed 16 Aug. 2018].

Conn, D. (2018). ‘Football’s biggest issue’: the struggle facing boys rejected by academies. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://goo.gl/sjDP3t [Accessed 16 Aug. 2018].

Transfermarkt.com. (2018). Football Transfers, Rumours, Market Values, News and Statistics. [online] Available at: https://goo.gl/ff5DrZ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2018].

 

 

 

As an engineer I have learned that it is not only about deriving the result but also explaining it. In Statathlon I found the unique opportunity to combine mathematics with my other passion, football, and strive to describe the phenomena that rule it.

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