Thursday, 22 October 2009

Player Poaching

In football???

Surely not.

Well I thought that too but a story I read in the Daily Mail today made me think again.

"Arsenal are leading the chase for 14-year-old Montenegro midfielder Nikola Zvrko. Chelsea and Barcelona are also interested in the youngster."

14?!?! From Montenegro?!?!

And these top European clubs are willing to uproot this young teenager from his homeland and move him to Western Europe.

This situation is not uncommon however.

Recall the ongoing Gael Kakuta saga at Chelsea who was signed from Lens at the age of 16, Fabregas from Barcelona to Arsenal: 16 and Gerard Pique to Manchester United from the same club at 17.

More recent cases such as Federico Macheda and Jeremy Helan (involving Manchester United and Manchester City respectively) have further raised awareness of a potentially growing problem in the European game.

Rumours (very strong ones at that) are that the clubs wanting the player offer the families of said player incentives, e.g. houses, jobs (Davide Petrucci's father was offered a groundsman job at Old Trafford), extra money, and it is only now that FIFA are considering taking action against those clubs found guilty of this.

Plucking these teenagers from their homeland and playing them in the reserves at their respective club cannot be good for the nation of the young players. Yes, they may develop at these clubs with the quality coaches (Macheda and Fabregas) but as Pique at United found out, first team opportunities are hard to come by and he finds himself now plying his trade in the starting line-up of Spanish champions Barcelona. I think it's pretty safe to say we won't be seeing Gael Kakuta playing in a Chelsea first-team anytime soon, ban or no ban.

Which illustrates my point.

These young players who have a real chance of playing in their original club's first team are having their (and their families) heads turned by the riches of the European big boys. Teams such as Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea can easily afford the compensation that would be required to place these players straight into their academies so money is not a problem.

The main problem is it remains sad to see the careers of these promising youngsters, who are blinded by the money and lights, being put in jeopardy and how FIFA intend to regulate this.

Oh, and I just read this article above the 14 year old story:

"Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is interested in signing Barnsley's teenage striker Reuben Noble-Lazarus. The 16-year-old became the youngest Football League player at 15 years and 45 days in 2008."

Enough said.

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