Borussia Dortmund’s sporting director, Michael Zorc, has admitted English clubs have overtaken their German counterparts in terms of the quality of young players being produced in the academy system.
The former Manchester City forward Jadon Sancho has enjoyed an outstanding breakthrough season in Germany to help Dortmund establish a seven-point lead at the top the Bundelisga, with the 18-year-old’s decision to seek first-team action overseas paying dividends for both parties. Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe became the latest English teenager to sign for a German side when he joined RB Leipzig on loan last month and Zorc believes that Premier League academies are leading the way in terms of producing quality young players.
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“Let’s go back say five or 10 years … there was a time that English clubs signed German players,” he said. “There was a lot of discussion here: ‘It’s all about money you know, it’s too early for them to go from Germany to England.’ But, in the meantime we have the feeling that, yes, the education and development of youth players in the English academies is quite good, to be honest. The teams don’t only spend much money on transfers or salaries but also on infrastructure. 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.”
Zorc added: “It seems to me that it’s something like a business model for them because even if they don’t succeed in their own teams they sell them for higher prices. I just read a figure of Man City – I think they’ve sold young players for more than 150 million within the last three or five years. You can recognise it also in results. 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.”
Sancho will come face to face with another Arsenal loanee in the form of Hoffenheim’s Reiss Nelson on Saturday in the Bundesliga, before he returns to London to face Tottenham in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday. Yet Sancho, who opted against signing a lucrative deal at City in 2017 to pursue his career abroad instead, has warned that it is no guarantee of prospering.
“I feel like young players are looking to go away now, because they are seeing my success, but it’s not easy,” he said. “People think that because I am doing so well, but everyone’s journey is different.”