Germany have perhaps the greatest pool of young talent currently available to any football playing nation.
However, it wasn’t always this way, and much like the other articles in this series, the way Germany turned things around following their Euro 2000 disappointment is very much something England could and should be looking at.
Just over a decade ago, having looked at poor performances from the national side, clubs in financial meltdowns and an ever-increasing number of foreign players, it was commissioned for 121 national talent centres, for players aged 10-17, to be built throughout Germany; while every club in the top two divisions had to have a youth academy.
Clark Whitney, German football editor of goal.com, said: “There is nothing serendipitous about the quality and quantity of young talent coming from the German first and second divisions. In 2000, after an aging Germany side utterly failed at the European Championship, the DFL made strict requirements for all 1. and 2. Bundesliga clubs to have youth academies, with very specific guidelines regulating their quality.
“There are also periodic sessions in which crops of youngsters are brought together to be trained in the style of the senior national team. The result is a large number of talented players who are well-nurtured, and take very little time to integrate into the senior national team.”
The benefits are clear for all to see. In recent years Germany have won the U17, U19 and U21 European Championships, and are one of the favourites for the senior tournament this summer.
The likes of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller and regarded as superstars, yet not one of them is older than 23. Similarly, the likes of Mats Hummels and Marco Reus are ready to burst onto the world stage, and there are plenty more waiting-in-line.
By contrast, England still call upon the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, John Terry and so on – all of whom are at least 30. There are some exceptions – Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker to name a few – but, ultimately, the English national side continues to be an ageing one, filled with players who have experience, and contributed to, past failures.
The fiasco that was no qualifying for Euro 2008, and the woeful performances in 2010’s World Cup were both supposed to lead to a youth revolution, but it is to the old stars Fabio Capello has turned, suggesting the younger players are not good enough.
Germany looks like having a side to challenge for at least the next decade. England may take that long before even attempting to catch-up.
You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Mr_Bundesliga.