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Interesting article about "Borussia Dortmund prodigy production line"

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The pictures and film links won''t copy which is a shame as they are interesting - it has also has messed up the formatting. You can look up Footbonaut etc to see other links.

December 2014, Anatolia, Turkey. Scouts from

the German football club Borussia Dortmund are attending a youth tournament

involving the USA’s highly rated under-17s team. Talent spotters have orders

from Michael Zorc, a former Dortmund captain who is now the club’s sporting

director, to watch a teenage American forward called Haji Wright.

According to Zorc, an excited scout calls him

to say: “This guy is good but in the same team there is another guy who is

extremely good, and we have to go after him.” The other guy is a

15-year-old called Christian Pulisic. Short

and slight, he has impressed with his ability to dribble the ball quickly,

using either foot. Other boys find his movements hard to predict and even

harder to stop.

The scout is right. At 17, Pulisic becomes the youngest foreign player to score in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top division, and the youngest to score for

the full US national team. Still only 19, he is a first-team regular at

Dortmund, where he continues to slalom around defenders, though his opponents

are now grown men. “We love to identify players who can make the difference in

the game, and Christian, of course, is one of those,” Zorc tells me.

In today’s big money football world, all elite

professional clubs have youth academies, dedicated to training boys (and, at

some clubs, girls) for the future and to discovering the game’s next big thing.

But over the past decade, Dortmund have become synonymous with recruiting and

unleashing the game’s most exciting — and expensive — talent.


At many clubs, Pulisic would be considered a

once-in-a-generation prodigy but the German club have created something more

valuable: a production line of once-in-a-generation prodigies, from
Mario Götze, the wunderkind whose dramatic

late goal for Germany
won the

2014 World Cup final, to the fledgling France striker Ousmane Dembélé, who was

bought by Barcelona last summer for €105m — an astonishing figure for a player

who had started a mere 22 games for Dortmund.


swing, the continent’s best teams are sure to

be circling around the German club’s best youngsters once more, desperate to

grab the fruits of football’s ultimate finishing school. Those rivals may be

better off asking themselves a key question: just how do Borussia Dortmund do it?

Residents

of Dortmund,
a blue-collar

city in Germany’s Ruhr valley, say they feel civic pride about two things:

erecting the world’s largest Christmas tree every year, and their vibrant  football team. The feeling is summed up by

the club’s slogan Echte Liebe, which means “true love”. It is a devotion shared

by fans and club alike. The price of match-day tickets — and beer — at the

team’s home ground Signal Iduna Park, known to fans as the Westfalenstadion, is

kept low. The cheapest ticket is €16.70, the most expensive €54.40, a fraction

of the cost at clubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona. Dortmund says

they could charge more but that their duty to the city takes priority over

making money.

In return, more than 80,000 fans regularly

pack the ground, creating a memorably raucous atmosphere. After one recent

match, the Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos told a Dortmund staffer that he

was unable to keep his footing at corner kicks as the “yellow wall” of fans in

the southern stand kept bouncing up and down, making the earth tremble.


It’s a philosophy that shapes Dortmund’s

approach from top to bottom. All 200 players at the club, starting with boys

aged eight, practise at the training ground in the quiet suburb of Brackel, where

low-rise buildings are set alongside 18,000 square metres of manicured football

pitches. The set-up is designed for the young players to see the first team up

close, allowing them literally to view their path to the top. But the

facilities are also deliberately sparse and unfussy — youngsters and veterans

are encouraged to mingle on a level playing field.

The aim is to create a close-knit community,

one that matches the club’s bond with the city it serves. The very best

teenagers are invited to stay at Dortmund’s boarding school, with 22 boys aged

between 15 and 19 housed in rooms at the training ground. The process can be

brutal, too: the vast majority of apprentices will be cut from the club’s ranks

over time, judged not good enough to play for the first team. Still, the club

is proud that more than 50 players from their academy are currently playing professional

football.

 

Out on the training ground, I am greeted by a

man who wears a grey puffer jacket displaying the Dortmund crest but speaks

with an English accent. Tim Kirk, 40, was hired by Dortmund earlier this year

to coach their under-12s. A budding footballer as a child, Kirk’s own dream of

turning professional ended following a serious knee injury aged 18. Instead, he

went on to found a free coaching programme for local schoolchildren in Bath

that produced 80 kids who moved on to the academies at professional clubs. It was a

track record that brought him to Dortmund’s attention.

Kirk

tells me that at Dortmund his 12-year-old charges are not assessed on winning

matches —
that

demand will come later in life — but on whether

they reach a specific target. In

a game, a striker may be told they will be judged not only on whether

they
score goals, likely to be one of their strengths, but  also

on how well they “press” or chase down a
defender, potentially a weakness.

 “It’s

challenging them intellectually,” says Kirk. “I would say up to the under-12s,

70 per cent is technical, just getting them to become familiar with the ball and execute actions. As soon as you

get into ages 12 to 15, you want them to start thinking two, three, four phases

ahead in the game.”

Dortmund is the biggest club in the Ruhr

region, and its youth team play against local sides desperate to beat their

illustrious opponents in yellow and black. Wearing Dortmund’s famous jersey at

an early age gives boys a sense of the burden they will feel as professional

players at the club. As Lars Ricken, a one-time Dortmund teenage star who now

leads the club’s youth system, tells me: “The 80,000 spectators at Signal Iduna

Park want to see goals. It’s a kind of spectacle and we have to create such

players who are willing to create chances, who are full of courage.”

Kirk

takes me to
a single-storey

building on the far edge of Dortmund’s training ground.  Inside lies the Footbonaut, a machine that

has played a key part in the club’s methods. He smiles as he sends me into a

robotic cage in the shape of a cube, and a floor laid with a pitch made of

artificial turf. Each of the four walls is also made up of 16 square panels

and, when the machine starts, balls fly at me from different angles and at

different speeds, seemingly at random. Buzzers and flashing lights provide a

split-second clue as to where a ball is coming from. My task is to trap the

ball using my body, then strike it into one of the panels that lights up as a

target. It is the
footballing version of Whak-A-Mole. And far

beyond my capabilities. At one point, I spin around to have a projectile fired

into my thigh, almost knocking me over. Kirk is clearly amused.

The Footbonaut is hardly a secret weapon. Invented by the

Berlin-based designer Christian Güttler, Dortmund installed it in 2011 at a reported cost of about $3.5m. But since then, only one other German club, Hoffenheim,

have paid to build one. It may be no coincidence that, over the past decade,

Hoffenheim are the only club in the Bundesliga to have regularly featured a

younger starting 11 than Dortmund. Why, I ask, hasn’t every team installed this

machine? “It’s  expensive,” says Kirk. “I

think clubs would rather invest money in things that give them an immediate

return.”

The

Footbonaut is not used by first-team players, already good enough to have mastered

it. Instead, weekly sessions are provided for the younger players with the aim

of giving each boy 5,000 extra “ball  contacts” a year. Coaches tell me Christian

Pulisic
“lived” at the centre when he first arrived

at 
               Dortmund.

But, they add, its greatest disciple was
Mario

Götze, who developed the ability to control balls fired at 100kph — double the velocity I faced.

The Footbonaut may even have won

Germany the World Cup. As Raphael Honigstein explains in Das Reboot, his excellent book on German football’s quest for

reinvention, the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina was goalless and

heading towards the end of extra time, when, in the 113th minute, a high ball

was delivered to Götze, on as a late substitute. In one sweeping movement, he

chested the ball forward, then volleyed it into the corner of the net. It was a

manoeuvre he had completed thousands of times before inside the Footbonaut.

“By the time they get to Götze’s level,

everything they do is pretty much automatic, because they’ve just honed it,

they’ve trained it,” Kirk explains. “It’s all about pictures. At a young age,

you’ve just got to build and give them as many pictures about the game as

possible so that they can choose the right one when the time comes.”

I ask him whether Dortmund’s young charges

benefit from the “10,000-hour rule”, the popular idea that the key to achieving

world-class ability is to spend that length of time practising a particular

skill. “You’ve got to be careful with 10,000 hours,” Kirk warns. “Because it’s

not just the 10,000 hours itself, it’s the content and it’s the manner in which

the 10,000 hours are done. It’s about purposeful practice.”

The coach is referring to the work of Anders Ericsson, a

Swedish psychologist dubbed the “world’s reigning expert in expertise” who

argues that mindless, rote repetition should be carefully distinguished from

focused, “purposeful practice”.

 

This requires certain conditions to be met,

making students go beyond their “comfort zone” by constantly attempting skills

just outside their current ability. It’s a kind of practice that allows true

experts to create superior “mental representations” — that is, accurate

pictures in their mind of how to perform their extraordinary tasks. An Olympic

diver visualises the correct body positioning as they somersault through the

air.

A chess grandmaster sifts through

a staggering array of future moves, before picking the best one.

With their emphasis on youth and continuous

development, Dortmund are a temple to such purposeful practice. To better

understand the effect that years of dedicated training can have, I speak to

Marco Reus, the Dortmund-born winger who is one of Germany’s most recognisable

players.

“When I do get the ball, it’s already too late to start

thinking about what to do,” says the

28-year-old, when we meet in the bare

Portakabin in which the club holds its press conferences. “I try to play in such

a way that, when I get the ball, I already automatically know what will happen

next.”

To illustrate his point, he recalls a recent

Champions League game against Real Madrid. With Dortmund 2-1 down, Reus’s

teammate Emre Mor slides a long pass down the right side of the pitch, past

Madrid’s centre back Sergio Ramos, into the path of striker Pierre-Emerick

Aubameyang. “You know a situation may arise
...and

then,” Reus clicks his fingers, “one second earlier, or not even that, you need

to start your move earlier than your opponent. I know Aubameyang is faster than

Ramos, so I try to start off earlier than my defender to get ahead of him.”


Reus is sprinting towards goal, a yard ahead

of Madrid’s chasing players. Aubameyang crosses the ball low. Reus slides just

in time to meet the ball with his left foot, caressing it over the onrushing

goalkeeper. He runs over to Aubameyang and the pair waggle index fingers at

each other as if to say: “I knew you were going to do that.” Reus says his body

simply reacted to a premonition that appeared a few seconds earlier: “And

that’s how it played out.”


 

 

In

March 2005, about
450

investors in Borussia Dortmund met in a building at Düsseldorf airport. A

Dortmund executive told them the club would be declared bankrupt unless they

signed up to a bailout plan. The proposal was accepted. Later it emerged that

one outside group that helped save the club was their arch-rival Bayern Munich

[Germany’s richest and most successful club], which had loaned €2m.

Academic research has shown that, in football, money does buy success.

The best indicator of a club’s league position is a club’s wage bill. The

problem was Dortmund didn’t have the cash to buy success. In trying to do so

they had overextended themselves by paying huge salaries to star players.

Carsten Cramer, Dortmund’s chief operating

officer, summarises the club’s financial crisis during this period succinctly.

“We tried to overtake Bayern Munich, although we should know that it will be

never possible to overtake a Bayern Munich.” Even today, when Dortmund rank as

the 11th richest club in the world, with revenues of €283.9m in 2015-16

according to Deloitte, they remain far behind Europe’s true super clubs such as

Bayern, which had annual revenues of €592m over the same year.


Dortmund’s solution to bridging this gap was

to invest in cheaper, younger players. They sought to develop local kids

through their academy system. Reus and Götze joined the club as boys, as did

others who became Germany internationals, such as Kevin Grosskreutz and Marcel

Schmelzer. The club also scoured the globe for youngsters such as Shinji Kagawa

from Japan and the Gabonese striker Aubameyang, often thrusting them straight

into the team.

The plan paid off under legendary former coach Jürgen

Klopp. When Dortmund won


was 23.3 years, among the very lowest of the

more than 100 clubs that have played across the 

“Big Five” European leagues of England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France

over the past decade. Klopp had designed the perfect system for his youngsters

— built on manic efforts to win back possession of the ball immediately after

losing it, then streaming forward en masse to overwhelm the opposition. He

later described it as “heavy-metal football”.

Yet Dortmund’s success quickly attracted

attention from Europe’s biggest spenders. As the players evolved into

superstars, some came to expect superstar wages. Instead of paying more to keep

them, Dortmund decided to sell to rivals who would. Götze went to Bayern Munich

for

€37m in 2013. Over the next few seasons,

Bayern picked off two more key Dortmund players, Robert Lewandowski and Mats

Hummels. In 2016, Götze’s replacement Henrikh Mkhitaryan was sold to Manchester

United for €42m and United’s neighbours Manchester City bought Ilkay Gündogan

for €27m.

Zorc insists this is not a business strategy

and Dortmund would rather keep their best players. It is, rather, an acceptance

of economic reality. “It’s because of money that is in the [English Premier

League] and in these two clubs in Spain [Barcelona and Real Madrid]. By knowing

this, we try to find these extraordinary players when they are not at their

peak. We develop them and


Madrid; now Dembélé to Barcelona.”

 

The corollary is that Europe’s brightest

prospects continue to be drawn to Dortmund. Last summer, Alexander Isak, a

17-year-old Swede, received an offer to join Real Madrid. Most would find it

hard to turn down the chance to join a club that have won back-to-back

Champions Leagues and feature superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth

Bale. But when Dortmund made a last-minute counter offer, Isak did just that.

 


He jokes that he chose Dortmund over Madrid

because of “the simple beauty of the city”. But when I press him, he says: “I

know the club and they achieved a lot with young talent and that makes people

think that it is a good place. Real Madrid is probably also a great place for a

challenge but Dortmund just felt right for me.” Isak made his first Bundesliga

start last weekend.

 

For Cramer, the most important lesson of the

club’s financial crisis in 2005 was “to focus on yourself, ask yourself what

you stand for”. As a result, there is an acceptance that “we will be able,

sometimes, to make it a little bit more difficult for [the likes of Bayern

Munich and Manchester United], but it’s not part of our DNA to be obligated to

be number one.”

If there is a concern, it is that Dortmund

have become victims of their success, unable to keep hold of their best

footballers for long enough to produce a winning team. Dembélé was there for

just a year after the German club hired him as just another budding prospect

for a fee of only

€15m. In November, Sven Mislintat, the club’s

chief scout who helped to discover many of their recent stars, joined Arsenal.

Speculation now centres on the slight figure

of Pulisic, who I meet in a cafeteria after a training session. He enters the

room wearing a hooded blue jacket, appropriate for a freezing day in which

drizzle threatens to solidify, and tackles my questions gamely but with

caution.

Pulisic says he doesn’t remember much about

his performances in Turkey that impressed Dortmund’s scout, though “I think

they saw a lot of what I do now, my attacking mode, or just being a creative

player and making a difference in the game.” But he credits his subsequent

emergence as one of the world’s best young players to Dortmund’s willingness to

thrust him into the first team far earlier than most clubs would have

contemplated.

The player bats away the suggestion he is in

line for a lucrative move elsewhere. “I’m not trying to impress another team,”

he says. “I’m doing everything I can to help my team here.” Yet, few believe

that if Pulisic continues on an upward trajectory he will stay beyond a few

more seasons.


Almost inevitably, it seems, a further stage

is built into Dortmund’s process of continuous improvement; the chance to move

to a megaclub like Barcelona and Real Madrid, where the standard of teammates —

and the competition for places within the team — will be even higher.


Unusually, the Dortmund way means it’s an outcome that

could satisfy both player and club.

“I learnt how to be a true professional and I

was able to take a bigger step,” he says. “[Dortmund] always gave me

opportunity. They allowed me to play, they gave me the training with the first

team. They allowed me to develop, not too fast, but in the right way.”


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This is the telling paragraph for me  - "The corollary is that Europe’s brightest

prospects continue to be drawn to Dortmund. Last summer, Alexander Isak, a

17-year-old Swede, received an offer to join Real Madrid. Most would find it

hard to turn down the chance to join a club that have won back-to-back

Champions Leagues and feature superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth

Bale. But when Dortmund made a last-minute counter offer, Isak did just that.
He jokes that he chose Dortmund over Madrid

because of “the simple beauty of the city”. But when I press him, he says: “I

know the club and they achieved a lot with young talent and that makes people

think that it is a good place. Real Madrid is probably also a great place for a

challenge but Dortmund just felt right for me.” Isak made his first Bundesliga

start last weekend
."

Basically it is young players choosing a club, not because it is the best, but because it is better for him as a footballer - the right club to develop his career.  That is what we surely aim to be as a club - a club that attracts good young players because they will see it as a place that will do them good in the long run.  We have imo already been that for a while - a reason why Maddison chose us, as well as others.  That is plainly going to be the way forwards for us as a club.  It would lead to a competitive and vibrant club full of young talent, including a smattering of young PL loanees each season too.  That should lead to success every so often, with promotions occasionally - but never changing that policy, even on getting to the PL, as buying in expensive players would ruin that ideology.  Stick to the plan if promoted, take the money and if relegated, nothing really changes except for the money gained from being in the PL which could be used to improve infrastructure and the ability to encourage an even better quality of younger players to join the club.  It''s a long term stategy that makes sense. 

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That article does however fail to mention that Dortmund also pay young players as much as any other club in Europe. While they are good at developing young players, and have a fantastic set-up, they still need to match, and in many cases beat, other teams in the wage package they offer. Isak certainly didn''t take a financial hit by choosing Dortmund over Madrid.

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[quote user="Bethnal Yellow and Green"]That article does however fail to mention that Dortmund also pay young players as much as any other club in Europe. While they are good at developing young players, and have a fantastic set-up, they still need to match, and in many cases beat, other teams in the wage package they offer. Isak certainly didn''t take a financial hit by choosing Dortmund over Madrid.[/quote]

That is plainly true, but the choice for players is more than a financial one - at rich clubs, young players will inevitably spend a lot of time off the pitch being developed - a club in our position with the right ethos in place can offer a quicker route to first team football.  Maddison plainly recognised this and he and we are reaping the benefits, at least until he moves on eventually - and then there should be others ready to take his place. Also, we will not be paying peanuts to players - we will still be offering a good deal to younger players, not maybe quite as much as richer clubs, but that is where players make choices - extra money and sitting in development squads or good money and more likelihood of first team competitive football...

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A very interesting article. You can catch sight of some of the things that Farke is trying to do - bringing on younger players, for example - here at Norwich. More evidence that we should see this as a long-term development and not insist on immediate returns. Yes, we could become the go-to club for young talent, even if it is like the Dortmund model and we expect that talent to move on.

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