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Where to find the next Mbappé

Young talent has never been in such high demand. Transfer price inflation for under-21s is over 50% higher than for peak-age players. The more and more clubs look to identify players at source – before they’ve made a mark in senior football – the more and more important it is to understand the dynamics of the market from which we’re recruiting.

It’s particularly important to understand how fragmented talent development is in a target market. Countries who rely on just a few clubs to develop their best players allow recruiters to reduce risk. For example, 68% of Portugal’s national team starters since the 2018 World Cup graduated from Benfica, Sporting CP or Porto’s academies. Any club looking to buy from Portugal can scout a relatively small pool of teams and be certain that they’re watching the country’s best young players.

However, reduced risk also means higher cost – the identity of Portugal’s major talent developers is no great secret, and it’s easy for ‘lazy’ recruiters to participate in markets like these, driving up demand and price.

France meanwhile is the opposite; their national team talent has come from a wide range of academies, meaning recruiting clubs cannot focus on one or two locations to spot talent. This presents a challenge but also an opportunity; clubs that seek to properly understand the market can thrive. These clubs will understand which academies are ‘running hot’, which produce players with certain qualities, and which academies are potentially undervalued sources of talent.

The chart above examines just the leading global nations, but they are not the only major talent developers. Smart clubs are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they scout young players in smaller South American and European markets, as well as African and Asian countries. Data can help identify the most attractive places to look, enabling us to weigh up logistical challenges, with value and opportunity. As the arms race for young talent heats up, it’s critical to have a strategy that works for our club.

If you’d like to partner on a study about emerging markets for your recruitment strategy, get in touch.

About Omar Chaudhuri

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