The Academy Way

Another series co-written with Matt Gault and Jon Townsend, we took a closer look at some of the finest academies from around the world. With so many clubs and countries now trying to emulate the Spanish or German approaches to youth development, we wanted to delve deeper into what makes these centres unique.

Click on the title below for the complete series.

The Academy Way

Santos, Brazil

santosPele is about as big a name as it gets, so the name of Santos needs little introduction. How they battled against the might of Sao Paolo, Corinthians and Palmeiras from the nearby megapolis of Sao Paolo is almost entirely down to their reputation – both at home and abroad, and of their incredible youth system.

Aspire Academy, Qatar

aspire qatarThe reputation of Qatar is not the strongest on the world stage given its controversial awarding of the 2022 World Cup and the human rights infringements involving the workers brought in to build the stadia. In purely football terms, that might be about to change – former Aspire graduate Akram Afif recently became the first Qatari to sign for a La Liga team, a trailblazer for the most ambitious setup in the world.

Mimosifcom, Ivory Coast

Yaya Toure trainingWhile modern day academies boast state of the art technology and medical facilities, Mimosifcom Academy relies on pure coaching excellence and pastoral care for its charges. The bulk of Ivory Coast’s ‘golden generation’, spearheaded by Yaya Toure, were nurtured here, where a unique partnership with a full time professional club sets them apart.

Southampton, England


It is hard to believe quite how appalling the facilities were less than two decades ago at Southampton’s academy, even more so that it has since been transformed so dramatically and systematically into one of the world’s leading modern development centres. When you hear the bland, generic patter in press releases talk of ‘a project’ and ‘a philosophy’, turn your attention instead to the legacy of Markus Liebherr on the south coast.