Germany’s painful first-round exit from EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands shook the country’s game to the very core. Having sat at the pinnacle of the European game for so long, Germany were now trailing in the wake of the continent’s major footballing nations. A radical overhaul was needed. Thankfully, a new dawn was just around the corner.
Within days of Die Nationalmannschaft’s EURO 2000 elimination, Bundesliga clubs and the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) leapt into action. A task force was set up to lay out a clear plan for the future. As well as pumping millions into the education of players and coaches as part of their Talent Promotion Programme, the DFB made it obligatory for the 18 Bundesliga clubs to operate centrally regulated training academies before being given a license to play in the league.
Youth players who have passed through these academies in recent years have developed into world class talents. For example, Thomas Müller won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at just 20 years of age, while Manuel Neuer was voted World Goalkeeper of the Year three times in a row between 2013 and 2015. In 2013, FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund met in the final of the UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium – the first all-German final in the competition’s history and with both sides featuring an array of home-grown talents. A year later, Mario Götze scored Germany’s winner in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina at the Estadio do Maracana.
So far, a total of more than 1.5 billion Euros has been invested in this way of promoting young talent by professional clubs. Each season, an average of 5,588 young talents – distributed across all age groups – are trained in the academies. Every year, around 70 players make it into a professional squad of a Bundesliga or Bundesliga 2 club.