The journey to the top of any football (soccer) career has always begun from humble beginnings for most football players playing in the world’s top-flight leagues. From a very tender age, footballers have devoted time to learning the skills and antics that make them exceptional and unique on the pitch. While many footballers may have originally started out in football by playing football in the streets as a child, the influence and doors of opportunities football academies have opened to such players have firmly proved that football academies are essential in building talents to its supreme prime. Globally, there exist thousands of football academies, but few are known for producing some of the best minds and legs in the game of football. In this article, we take you around the world, as we uncover the top-20 best football academies in the world, known for producing exceptional and rare talents.
20. Right to Dream
Though not a football club, Right a dream has produced players playing in Europe’s top-flight leagues since it’s inception in 1999. A fully functional African football academy, Right to dream also trains female footballers. After repeated trials in the Manchester United Premier Cup, Right to dream finally won the title, playing against some of Europe’s top academies, such as Real Madrid and Juventus.
19. El Semillero (Argentinos Juniors)
Globally, El Semillero, may not be recognized, but the name Diego Maradona surely will be recognized. The football legend, Maradona began his football career in the Buenos Aires football club academy. Aside, Maradona, the academy has produced other players such as Juan Riquelme and Esteban Cambiasso.
18. West Ham Academy
Though they may not be a formidable rival in the EPL, West Ham football academy have produced players who have gone to make the academy proud. Such players which include, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick have had successful careers in the English Premier League.
A Belgian football academy known to have produced some of the best defenders in the English Premier League such as Vincent Kompany and strikers in the Serve A, in the person of Romelu Lukaku, the academy has seen it’s graduates steadily expanding their horizons in their football performance in their respective league. Being a home of great football prospect, the academy is a regular winner and contender for the Jupiler Pro League. As the academy nurtured talents slip to Europe’s top club, it steadily continues to live up to its name as the primary home to top football prospect among Brussels football academies.
Often called Varkenoord, Feyenoord Academy is the youth academy of Dutch football club Feyenoord. The club had one of its proudest moments in 2014 where eleven graduates featured regularly in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The club has suffered from talent drain as some great prospects are often lost to other prestigious academies in Europe. But despite that, the club has produced some of the best footballers in the world such as Robin Van Persei and Georginio Wijnaldum.
15. Stade Rennais
Judging by its success at youth level, the French Academy has been on an impressive form. The club picked up pace in the outset of the 21st century when it’s U-19 youth side won the Coupe Gambardella in 2003 and 2008. The academy is committed to detecting and integrating youth talents into Europe’s football system while putting the well-being of the players at the fore.
14. Partizan Belgrade
The Serbia football academy founded in the 1950s has been on the rise in recent years with successes recorded by its youth academy. Graduates of Partizan Belgrade can be seen featuring in regular games for clubs in some of Europe’s primary leagues. The academy operates a youth football system where players are classified by age and taught the skills and antics involved in the sport. Some of its famed graduates include Stevan Jovetic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Simon Vukcevic.
13. GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy
Dinamo Zagreb academy system is a perfect example of how European clubs make a fortune out of nurturing young, vibrant and energetic players. The club has made over €50 million from its academy. While profit can be a motivation for football academies to scout for young talents, Zagreb financial gains in the academy market come second to the building and development of young players. The club system of featuring two players from each age group in its youth academy in the club’s first team has made it one of the best football academies in the world.
12. River Plate
Regarded as one of the most successful Argentinian football clubs, River Plate academy is committed to scouting for talents in the streets of Argentina. The academy regularly features matches of 2 players against 2, 3 against 3, in order to build players relationship on the field. The academy also features regularly in South American youth tournaments and regularly go on tour in South America. Notable footballers who began their careers at the academy include Herman Crespo and Alfredo Di Stefano.
11. Boca Juniors
Undoubtedly one of the best football academy in the world, the club’s tradition of investing in scouting young talents and developing such talents to become world-class players rather than in the transfer market has made its academy productive. The academy has produced players such as Carlos Tevez and Fernando Gago.
10. Real Madrid (La Fábrica)
One of the most successful and Prestigious clubs in Europe, Real Madrid is known for purchasing very key players who add to the ranks of the team, leaving its academy in the shadow. The academy unknown to many has been successful in producing some of the top players in European clubs. The likes of Alvaro Morata, Carvajal and Iker Casillas who have played for the club’s first team are products of its academy.
9. Schalke 04 (Knappenschmiede)
ln European football, Schalke 04 remains a fair rival. The club has featured regularly in Europe’s top club tournaments and has shown the world that it is the boast of great talents. The club’s academy has produced some of Germany’s first-team players who were instrumental in the nation’s big win at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, such players include, Mesut Ozil and ace goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
In the EPL, Southampton may not be considered a tough rival, but in the business of training and nurturing talents to become world-class players, Southampton had made its mark. The club success in the business of scouting young talents has been a focal point of its management as it approved the sum of £30 million for its new training facilities. The big-spending in its academy has produced desirable results as top players in European leagues have graduated from its academy. Such played include, Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Luke Shaw.
At the very beginning of his career, legendary footballer Pele (retired), began his successful career at Santos. The academy helped tailor the inborn gifts Pele had, which made him the star he was during his career. Aside Pele, Santos academy has produced other great players in recent years, such as Neymar Jnr and Robinho. The academy prioritizes the education as well as the health of its trainees.
6. Sao Paulo
Blessed with a perfect football stadium fully furnished to meet world standards and health programs to cover its players, Sao Paulo academy has just the right equipment to produce the perfect footballers who have just the right talents to deliver quality results. Renowned Brazilian footballers, Kaka and Oscar are graduates of Sao Paulo academy.
5. Sporting Lisbon
One of the achievements of the Sporting Lisbon football academy is the undeniable fact that she produced one of the best players in the 21st century. Cristiano Ronaldo began his career at the Portuguese academy. Aside from Ronaldo, the academy has produced more than 100 players who have gone to represent their country at the national level and also featured prominently in their respective clubs. Some of its graduates include Luis Figo, Nani and João Moutinho.
4. Bayern Munich
Based on the calibre of players, Bayern Munich academy has produced, it is living up to its mission of holding a global position in football while imbibing the principles of mental and physical strength in their players. So far this has been working out for the team. Most of the academy players are German and have gone on to achieve incredible feats for their country. Some of the 2014 World Cup winners in the German squad, such as Thomas Mueller, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kross had their career kickoff at Bayern Munich academy.
3. Manchester United
Manchester United has a tradition of featuring it’s academy players in regular league games and this has helped it’s academy products to become world-class players. Under the leadership of former coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, the club academy players were featured regularly in the first team. Notable graduates of the English club academy include David Beckham, Danny Welbeck, George Best, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
Home to some of the best prospects in European football, Ajax football academy has trained many prominent stars who have progressed to have successful football careers. In scouting, the clubs reach is not limited by geographical boundaries but extends to every part of the world, where youngsters embrace the beautiful sport of football. Players who have graduated from its academy include ace defender Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Justin Kluivert and Christian Eriksen.
1. Barcelona (La Masia)
Undoubtedly the best football academy in the world, La Masia has produced several talents that have progressed to become the face of football in Spain and Europe. In 2011, three of its graduates were nominated in the final three, for the Ballon d’Or, an incredible achievement for the academy. Its prominent graduates include Lionel Messi, who can be said to be the face of football in the 21st century and been crowned the best footballer in the world multiple times, as well as 2010 FIFA World Cup winners, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Puyol.
There you have it—Our top-20 list of the best football academies in the world right now. Which football academy did you expect on this list? Please share in the comment section below.