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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The (potential) Impact of Real Madrid on Youth Development in Germany

The (potential) Impact of Real Madrid on Youth Development in Germany

The success story of youth development in Germany is evident from one glance at last year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Thomas Müller finished the tournament with five goals and three assists and was awarded the Golden Boot to go along with his Best Young Player award. Mezut Özil and Sami Khedira impressed enough at the World Cup to secure multimillion dollar moves to Real Madrid. They aren’t the only stories but they do stand out. Another fact that stands out is that these players are all under twenty-five.

How does Real Madrid have anything to do with the German youth? Right now, there’s not that much. But Real have shown interest in Nuri Sahin and if the rumors are to be believed the deal is done. Sahin, though German born, is a Turkish international and his form has no impact on the German National Team. But he plays for current Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund; who have five current German internationals in their squad, all of whom are under the age of twenty-four.

Sahin is a centre-midfielder and an excellent one at that. His departure can have one of two effects should Borussia maintain the same style and formation: it can destroy the Borussia team’s bid for a dynasty or it can force another player to shine in Sahin’s previous role. This player is likely to be Sven Bender , also a central midfielder and a German international. The adaptation to the subtle switch to a slightly more attacking role by Bender will have great impact on the German team.

Teams are not made up of one or two players however. So Sven Bender alone does not make or break the National team. What then if Borussia cannot continue on in the same style and formation that won them the Bundesliga without Sahin? The tactics must change. Five German internationals must now adapt to different routines and possibly positions. As professionals they should, but just because they should does not mean they will. The loss of Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid can, depending on Borussia’s future performance result in a mass exodus of talent. Because although one man does not make a team, one man can cause the momentum to go (Claude Makalele leaving Real Madrid for Chelsea personifies this.)

There are parallels to this entire situation. It might not be obvious to those who have seen Khedira only at Real Madrid but Khedira is a genuine box-to-box midfielder. He is more of a Michael Ballack type player than a Mark van Bommel. His departure from VfB Stuttgart, though he was not alone in leaving at the end of the season, prompted several younger players to be called up from Stuggart II to the first team. The development of these players, as most are German, should be observed.

Mezut Özil leaving for Real Madrid saw a similar influx of players from Werder Bremen’s II team into their first team. The difference was that these players were not given a starting role and used mainly off the bench. Why? Perhaps because Werder were used to their starting playmaker going during summer. Özil himself, despite looking a veteran in the attacking midfield role, only obtained his starting position at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season on the departure of Diego to Juventus.

But also, Werder possess two highly rated and experienced young players in the form of Marko Marin and Aaron Hunt. They were expected to pick up the slack when Özil left. They didn’t. If anything both can be said to have regressed. The performances of Marin in particular, (who was thought of highly across Europe), have been shocking. His spot in the German National squad, once deemed secure (though as a substitute), seems to have been passed on. The departure of Özil has shown both Hunt and Marin to be not yet ready.

What has Real done then for the German Football Association(DFB) ? In tangible terms, nothing. Can we actually measure their effect? No, we cannot. But potentially, they have furthered youth development in Werder Bremen and VfB Stuggart. If this development was already in progress, Real sped up the progress. They will potentially do the same for Borussia Dortmund. They could also cause regression of the Dortmund youth players (albeit indirectly). By taking Özil out of Bremen, they have weeded out the pretenders.

Did Real intend to do all of this (or potentially do it)? Of course not. Should the DFB thank them anyway? Probably they should

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