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CHARLIE CHRISTIE - Club are Real deal for giving young talent chance

By Charlie Christie

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Charlie Christie.
Charlie Christie.

As the Champions League returned for the knock-out stages, it wasn’t last week’s match results that caught my attention rather than the fascinating report on the 16 individual club squad lists that are required by UEFA prior to the games beginning.

Topping that report for the most home-grown players were Real Sociedad who currently sit sixth in La Liga. Sociedad would be regarded by many as one of the lesser-known sides in the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition.

But, with 13 home grown players listed, they proudly top the chart well ahead of many of the so-called glamour clubs.

For comparison Qatari owned Paris St Germain have just three home-grown players in their squad and whilst Real Sociedad academy players have played over 42 per cent of their total Champions League match minutes this season, PSG academy players have played just six per cent.

It’s an interesting comparison given the comments of leading PSG Academy coach Laurent

Bonadei in 2012 who, after surveying the talent in the Paris club’s extensive academy, declared that PSG would win the Champions league within five to 10 years and would do so with a team of mainly home -grown players.

Here we are 12 years later, and the French aristocrats have yet to bring the Champions League trophy home and during that time have allowed numerous talented young academy players to leave; mainly due to the lack of a career pathway allied to the many multi-million- pound signings made throughout this period.

Real Sociedad meanwhile have made the development and first team pathway for their

academy players a definitive part of their club DNA and have often reaped the rewards with regular player sales including those of Xabi Alonso, Antoine Griezmann and Dani Garcia.

This mindset should be applauded and their undefeated qualification from a Champions League group that included Inter Milan, Benfica and RB Salzburg is proof enough that success at every level and a desire to produce your own players for the first team can go hand in hand.

Whilst debating Scottish football on radio several years ago I suggested that a rule should be

introduced where every team in our League system should have a minimum of three, four or preferably five home-grown players in every match day squad and that this would benefit our game going forward at both club and international level.

My suggestion was met with mixed opinions, but Real Sociedad are a shining example of exactly what can be achieved and may well be the blueprint for others to follow in the future.

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