10 best Bundesliga talent factories
- The Bundesliga's structure sees a special emphasis placed on youth prospects.
- We take a look at 10 such clubs who have been the best at producing and promoting youngsters.
The way clubs operate in Germany is significantly different than they do in England or France. By enforcing the '50+1' rule, a proposal which sees club members retain control, the German Football Federation (DFB) has effectively restricted the influence of outside investors. There are no Roman Abramovich-type figures in Germany and, as a result, clubs are often limited in their spending.
The focus then shifts to the youth academies. The '50+1' rule, combined with DFB's emphasis on investment in youth, has seen German clubs produce and promote some of the best talents in the world. Germany's 2014 World Cup Final starting eleven consisted of players from five different academies, with Bayern Munich leading the way.
However, the distribution of talent is not evenly spread across the country. As stated by German football expert, Raphael Honegstein, some areas - Ruhr, Bavaria, Berlin - are more successful in attracting and developing talent. It comes as no surprise then, that the likes Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, and Bayern Munich lead the way in terms of producing players.
In the following piece, we take a look at 10 such talent factories in the Bundesliga - both past and present - which are providing the country with gifted players.
#10 VfL Bochum
Situated in the Ruhr area, VfL Bochum are often clouded by the presence of Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke in close vicinity. The Unabsteigbaren, furthermore, have never been able to rise to the level of their neighbours. They have spent more time in 2. Bundesliga than the Bundesliga since the turn of the century.
However, that hasn't stopped them from producing some of the finest players in the country, and in turn, the world. Two of VfL Bochum's top academy products - Ilkay Gundogan and Joel Matip - currently reside in England's two top teams, Manchester City and Liverpool.
#9 Hertha Berlin
Based in the capital city Berlin, fans have always had high hopes with Hertha BSC. However, Die Alte Dame haven't been able to live up to that billing. This is evidenced by the fact that their last Bundesliga title win came almost a century ago.
When it comes to producing some of the best talents in the country, however, Hertha has excelled. Taking advantage of their location, the capital club has carved a path for several international players. Both the Boateng brothers - Jerome and Kevin-Prince - are Hertha graduates, as is Dortmund star Nico Schulz.
Despite Hertha Berlin's continuous battle with relegation this season, the club has given chances to academy graduates. The include Arne Maier, Jordan Torunarigha, and Maximilian Mittelstadt, all of whom are rated highly in their country.
#8 Bayer Leverkusen
The sight of Kai Havertz running up and down the pitch has become common in the BayArena, where Bayer Leverkusen play their home matches. The German international is considered to be among the best young players in the world and is destined for a move to the top.
Havertz, however, is just one of many talented players that Leverkusen has produced over the years. Current Bundesliga stars Christoph Kramer, Kevin Kampl, Danny da Costa, Dominik Kohr, and Bastian Ozcipka are just some of the players to have come through their academy.
Die Werkself are expected to cash in on Havertz in the coming transfer window. Given their record historically, it's safe to say that they will look to invest some of the money from his transfer in their youth system which has continued to do good work over the years.
#7 Borussia Monchengladbach
When Bundesliga returns on May 16, a lot of eyes will be on Borussia Monchengladbach. Die Fohlen are a team transformed under the stewardship of Marco Rose and are one of the four teams challenging for the title.
Historically the club has always been a part of the chasing pack despite winning five titles themselves. They have, however, often led when it comes to providing the country with gifted players.
Legendary footballer Jupp Heynckes was once a part of Gladbach's academy, as were twins Helmut and Erwin Kremers. Former German international Marko Marin, Lewis Holtby, and Marcell Jansen also came through the ranks of the club.
The youth system has also produced current first-teamers such as Patrick Hermann and Tony Jantschke. The jewel of Gladbach's academy, however, is Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, who is currently responsible for keeping the goal safe for one of the biggest teams in the world - FC Barcelona.
#6 Hamburger SV
Once among the biggest clubs in Germany, Hamburger SV are currently languishing in 2. Bundesliga. They are one of only three German clubs who have won a UEFA Champions League in history, along with six Bundesliga titles. Die Rothosen were relegated to the second division in 2018 thereby breaking their long-standing record of continuous top-flight appearances.
Hamburg have historically been one of the best teams in terms of academy talent as well. Currently counted among the best players in the world, Son Heung-min is the biggest name to have come out of their academy in recent years.
One of Hamburg's own, Jann Fiete Arp, was snatched by Bayern last summer and is expected to play a big role for them in the future.
#5 1860 Munich
Given the success of Bayern Munich, many football fans might be oblivious to the existence of a second team in the city. Unfortunately for 1860 Munich, they have had to deal with the enormity of their city rivals throughout their existence.
Yet Die Lowen have played an important part in the history of German football. Not only were they among the founding members of the Bundesliga, but they have also been one of the best feeder clubs over the years.
#4 VfB Stuttgart
Bernd Leno; Jeremy Toljan, Antonio Rudiger, Thilo Kehrer, Sead Kolasinac; Joshua Kimmich, Sami Khedira, Sebastian Rudy; Timo Werner, Mario Gomez, Serge Gnabry. This is one of the combinations you get when you make up a playing eleven entirely of VfB Stuttgart academy graduates. And there's plenty of talent left on the bench too!
Stuttgart are among the best clubs in terms of youth recruitment and development, as evident by the long list of players to have come through the academy. In addition to the eleven above, Die Roten have developed players including Kevin Kuranyi, Fredi Bobic, Adam Szalai, and Daniel Didavi.
With an academy as strong as theirs, one has to wonder why Stuttgart hasn't done well recently on the pitch.
#3 Borussia Dortmund
In recent years, most football fans have come to love Borussia Dortmund as their 'second club'. That could be because of Jurgen Klopp's entertaining stint, the atmosphere inside their home ground, the set of values engrained in the club, or perhaps a combination of everything.
Producing and integrating young gifted players has been the Borussia Dortmund way for long. Marco Reus is the living proof of the same, captaining his boyhood club as they make another attempt at winning the title.
The crowning moment for the BVB academy came in 2014 in Brazil when one of their own - Mario Gotze - pounced on to score the winning goal in the final.
#2 FC Schalke
In terms of matters on the pitch, FC Schalke have historically lagged behind their fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund. They trail Dortmund by one in terms of Bundesliga titles and are also regularly behind them in the table.
However, when it comes to youth development, they have left their rivals behind.
Once among Germany's biggest clubs, Schalke's status has changed in recent years. They have now become what the football fraternity refers to as a feeder club, i.e, selling the best of their players to opponents.
Bayern Munich have benefitted from this especially, first taking Manuel Neuer, then Alexander Nubel, and potentially Leroy Sane in the future. Academy graduates Julian Draxler and Thilo Kehrer have gone to Paris Saint Germain, while Kerem Demirbay plays for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Despite the setbacks, Schalke hasn't stopped producing gifted players with the next batch already on its way!
#1 Bayern Munich
The riches in Bavaria go a long way! Not only are Bayern Munich the best team in the country, and the continent, but they are also one to produce excellent players over the years. The Bavarians may not have the highest number of academy graduates currently playing in Europe, however, they do have some of the best ones.
Some of Bayern's former players have retired into the pantheon of German greats, such as Philipp Lahm, Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Then there are the current stars who are playing at the highest level in football.
Bayern have been the most successful team in Germany by some distance. However, that hasn't come at the cost of youth prospects. Instead, the Bavarians have carefully and patiently developed youngsters over the years. They have even given them the chance to make a mark in the first team - something that is a rarity in top European clubs.