Commentary

Young academy stars leaving for free isn't only an MLS problem

The issue of MLS teams losing their brightest prospects from their academy programs to European clubs without a transfer fee is becoming a bigger problem, but they aren't alone.

It is a particular problem for French clubs, considered the top producers of young talent in Europe. While there was for many years a non-aggression pact among French clubs not to swipe young players from rival academies, French youth stars have for years been targeted by clubs in other European countries.

In a famous case, Paul Pogba left Le Havre for Manchester United (for his first stay) when he was 16. Le Havre sued for breach of contract but lost -- the teams later settled.

For Paris St. Germain, which sits on perhaps the greatest goldmine of soccer talent in the city's banlieues, it has been a big problem, but it is starting to fight back.

In recent years, PSG lost teenage stars Moussa Dembele to Fulham (now at Lyon after starring at Celtic), Kingsley Coman to Juventus (now at Bayern Munich) and Dan-Axel Zagadou to Borussia Dortmund on free transfers.

Unlike MLS teams, who lose players who are free to move because they haven't signed pro contracts, French clubs lose players when they turn 18 after signing three-year "aspirant" contracts and leave after turning down pro contracts.

L'Equipe reported that PSG has introduced a carrot-and-stick approach to lock down players from its loaded youth system that includes U.S. international Tim Weah.

PSG is offering players long-term contracts -- three years guaranteed, plus two option years -- to sign. Contracts -- salary and signing bonuses -- begin at about $500,000 over the term of the agreement. Defender Stanley Nsoki, 19, was signed to his first pro contract in a deal worth 3 million euros ($3.5 million).

But PSG is also playing hard ball with wavering prospects. L'Equipe described the approach as "tu ne signes pas, tu ne joues pas" ("you don't sign, you don't play").

To keep out agents, PSG has tightened access to the academy fields at its Camp des Loges. And it has established a blacklist, according to the French sports daily, of agents who have moved players abroad and whom it won't deal with.

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3 comments about "Young academy stars leaving for free isn't only an MLS problem".
  1. R2 Dad, September 22, 2018 at 3:20 p.m.

    England clubs have been luring Spanish starketts for the past 15 years. Mexican clubs have been signing American kids via Alianza as well. Players go where the opportunity is.

  2. Ric Fonseca, October 2, 2018 at 3:42 p.m.

    R2D2 Dad, you are correct vis-a-vis Mexican teams signing Mexican american/Latino player-resudents living this side of the border.  Ironically, the head hioncho and one of the Alianza group is none other than Brad Rothenberg, former US Soccer and WD USA '94 President Alan Rothenberg.  Now, mind you, Brad can do as he pleases, yet, back in the years immediately following WC USA 94, there was little or nothing at all, yet Brad did have the presence of mind, as well as a little help from his father, to set up the Alianza concept that immediately took off, what with lots of corporate dinero helping him out. There is a helluva LOT to consider regarding this venture, yet, for the amount of $$$ pumped in to the Alianza coffers, it seems to me and many others in the know, that Alianza ought to do more than just ID a - one - potential star and get more of the Liga MX Clubs to open bona-fide youth clubs.  There's been a plethora of such Liga MX Clubs, e.g. Pumas, Chicas, America, with dubious approaches to discovering potential talent, yet these clubs, are short of being just an opportune time for some has-been players or supposed "representantes" i.e. scouts, that are only here to collect the fees, and as we used to say, take a trip to Vegas and then take the family to Disneyland.  Heck, remember what happened when Club America "bought" the old L.A. Aztecs, took them from the Rose Bowl and have them play in the LA Coliseum only to fold shortly thereafter???  Now that was a fiasco of sorts to be told during a rainy day....  Lastly and IMHO, it'd behoove US Soccer and MLS to know where the talent is, properly identify it, and make danged sure the potential future star, donovan, Pulisic, et. al. don't slip through their grasp and end up playing whether across the pond or the border.  

  3. Ric Fonseca, October 2, 2018 at 3:43 p.m.

    RE: above, I mean to say that Brad Rothenberg is the son of US Soccer and ...

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