Does Germany Have the Greatest Development System in the World?

The genius plan that turned the underperforming German national team in to World Champions
by Roy Rosell   |   Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 Bundesliga Beat – column on Germany’s Bundesliga, DFB Pokal & the German soccer scene.

Germany, a country known for its footballing prowess, was in disarray. Confused, distraught, and fed up with an underperforming national team and an equally unimpressive pipeline of talent, the clubs of the Bundesliga and the German Football Association (DFB) called an emergency meeting to deal with the disaster at hand.

The seed was planted after the 2000 European Championships, where Germany sputtered and choked to a dead last finish in group stages in Europe’s most prestigious tournament. A 1-1 tie with lowly Romania, followed up by a 1-0 loss to England and concluding with a 3-0 massacre at the hands of Portugal left the German population in complete and utter shock. It was just what the Deutscher Fussball Bund, the organization responsible for Germany’s national team, needed to hit the panic button and revamp their entire player development structure.

It wasn’t just the Euros. After the 1990 World Cup which saw West Germany defeat Argentina in the final by the same score as this year’s installment, it’s been a downhill slide for the National mannschaft. In 1994, the Germans were booted out of the World Cup by an over-performing Bulgaria in the quarterfinals, losing 2-1 in regular time. 4 years later, the Germans were once again ousted in the quarters in a match that saw the Croatians devour the hopes and dreams of the frustrated German populous in a resounding 3-0 victory.

They knew that the development system for their youth had to be completely revamped as it wasn’t consistently producing the world class talent that it so desperately needed. They looked across the border to the French, who at the time were World Cup winners and European Championship trophy bearers. They looked closely at the methodology of the world-renowned Clairefontaine Academy which has discovered and developed the likes of Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Louis Saha, William Gallas, just to name a few. After researching the ins-and-outs of the famed star-producing factory, the DFB decided to use it as a base for their restructuring.

Just before the implementation, the Bundesliga was being overrun by big contract foreign players as the young German talent barely had a chance to feature. Consequently, the development of German players was stunted through a development pipeline clogged with foreign players, thus, restricting the flow of highly developed German players making the cut in an overwhelmingly competitive structure that favored league competitiveness over youth development.

“This may have been due to a lack of confidence in our own young players, but also in their inadequate football skills” stated Christian Seifert, Chief Executive Officer of the DFL upon being asked of the reasoning for favoring foreign talent and the subsequent player drought in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

The system in place at the time was so far off the country’s expectations and desires that they decided to stop tinkering and just start from scratch.

The first and most important criterion for the new plan was that no one, NOT ONE young German talent will fall through the cracks. No stone will be left unturned in the DFB’s mission to get every young player with potential an opportunity to grow and receive the necessary training and development to become the national team’s next star. And if they pan out, that’s money very well spent. With this came the decline of foreign influx in to the Bundesliga followed by increased expectations from the young German players to fill the void.

After a plan to find all the talent was put in to effect, then came the plan to grow that talent.

The program put in place was one that was highly standardized. The national program begins by requiring every coach in every German town to take courses and acquire a license from the football governing body. This assures that the same skills and techniques are being taught throughout the country and that no conflicting schools of thought arise. Starting at age 6, kids throughout Germany are all being taught under the same philosophies. This skill and technique based training continues until they are 8 years old. At that point, scouts from the 36 professional clubs in Germany start to swoop in to gather talent for their academies.

10 years after the implementation of this program, a young German squad  with an average age of 24 consisting entirely of players raised and playing in the Bundesliga showed the world a dominant, attacking, and highly attractive brand of football that left jaws dropped and the hearts of their opponent’s shattered. This young squad managed a 3rd place finish (after losing 1-0 to eventual champions Spain), defeating world powerhouses Argentina and England 4-0 and 4-1 (respectively) and downing Australia 4-0.

The decision made by the DFB just 10 years before had started to bear fruit in an impressive fashion.

3 years later, the seed that was planted would continue to flourish, resulting in a Champion’s League Final consisting of 2 German teams, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, with rosters dominated by German players raised in the new development system.

Just a year later, the Germans would crush world powerhouse Portugal 4-0 and dismantle World Cup favorites and hosts Brazil 7-1, a result that warranted thousands of fans to upload the game’s highlights to pornographic sites throughout the web.

The German national team would hold the 2014 World Cup trophy in their hands. That is, the hands of 22 year-old Andre Schürrle (22), 23 year-old Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels (24), Mesut Ozil (24), Erik Durm (22), Toni Kroos (24), Mario Götze (20), Marco Reus (23), Julian Draxler (19), Christoph Kramer (23), Ron Zieler (25), Shkodran Mustafi (22) Manuel Neuer (28), the list goes on. ALL players raised in the same system, with the same footballing mentality. 


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Absolute fanatic, especially passionate about MLS and it's growth. LA Galaxy columnist with no filter and a knack for the controversial. Travelled the world watching soccer matches, but there's no place like home.