Each year, at the end of the season, the French FA (FFF) puts together a list of the country’s best academies with the aim of encouraging clubs to produce local talent.
Given France’s success at the 2018 World Cup, plus their push to the semi-finals of the Under-21 European Championship this year despite possessing an injury-riddled squad, it is an initiative that appears to be bearing fruit.
It also provides some guidance as to which teams young players are most readily able to thrive in, though necessarily should be navigated with some caution.
The technical arm of the FFF, establishes the ranking based on five criteria:
- professional contracts signed by academy players
- number of first-team matches played by academy players
- number of international matches played by academy players formed at the club
- school qualifications obtained by academy players
- contracts of coaches.
For the 2018-19 season, there was a somewhat surprising winner in the form of Paris Saint-Germain, a club renowned for its big spending and focus on star names.
It is a ranking that PSG have been steadily climbing, though their progression to top of the ranking this term is a reflection partly upon their lack of squad depth, which offered many youngsters the opportunity to get first-team minutes, particularly late in the season. Indeed, of the 30 players they used last season, 12 came through the academy.
A better indication of their attitude towards youth is their willingness to part with Moussa Diaby (£1.29) – Bayer Leverkusen, Timo Weah (£1.12) – Lille, Adrien Rabiot (£1.24), poised to join Juventus on a Bosman deal, and Christopher Nkunku (£0.90), who is RB Leipzig bound in a bid to ward off Financial Fair Play concerns. It would not be surprising to see other young fringe players, such as Stanley N’Soki (£0.57), depart this summer too.
🚨🇫🇷 TRANSFER NEWS 🇫🇷🚨
Moussa Diaby joins the Werkself from PSG on a five-year contract!
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) June 14, 2019
The capital side have steamed ahead of a string of clubs more readily associated with youth production, including Lyon.
One of the criticisms that OL supporters had of head coach Bruno Genesio was that he was unwilling to turn to his academy options this season, and that is reflected by the fact that they have fallen to fourth in the standing. A club with a strong tradition of bringing through youngsters, new head coach Sylvinho’s attitude towards the academy remains to be seen, yet sporting director Juninho is well aware of the expectation to bring players through, having turned out eight seasons with Les Gones.
Meanwhile, Rennes are ranked second, reflecting upon both a prolific academy and a willingness to graduate players to the first team rapidly. With head coach Julien Stephan having come into the head coach role having been promoted from a youth background at the club, it is not unfair to suggest that this process will only continue to accelerate next season, particularly as they will again have European commitments.
Monaco, inevitably, find themselves well ranked in fifth, with the academy of the principality side having long been regarded as one of the most fertile in the country.
The FFF does not just rank Ligue 1 clubs, however. Sides from Ligue 2 are also included, with Sochaux ranked the third best in the whole country with regards their academy, despite narrowly missing relegation to the third tier last summer. This stamp of approval has been sufficient for Inter to swoop for 17-year-old midfielder Lucien Agoume, who turned out 15 times in the league for a club whose nickname translates as the Lion cubs, harking to their traditionally strong academy.
Le Havre also make an appearance in the top 10 and Auxerre are just outside at 11th.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, Marseille have moved up from rock bottom to 16th, at least in part due to the emergence of centre-back Boubacar Kamara (£0.83), who is surely destined for a big future.
Ligue 2 side Paris FC prop up the entire ranking, while the poorest Ligue 1 sides are Amiens (34th out of 37) and Strasbourg, who are 35th.
France may be a prolific producer of top players, but not all academies are equal, as this instructive ranking serves to remind.