The Hague: Ajax Amsterdam has the most productive youth academy in European football, according to a survey done by three researchers from the International Centre for Sports Research (CIES) from Neuchatel, Switzerland.
A total of 69 players, who were trained by Ajax, play in the top European leagues, of which 16 at the Dutch club and 53 at other clubs. Partizan Belgrade of Serbia comes in second place with a total of 60 players and Hajduk Split of Croatia is third with 55. Spanish giants FC Barcelona are fourth with a total of 53 players in Europe, of which 17 are at the club and 36 elsewhere.
Although the Ajax youth academy has always produced players, the academy was criticised in 2010 for not producing real top players by club legend Johan Cruyff.
His remarks were followed by a so-called revolution led by Cruyff himself, which eventually led to a different training approach with more attention to individual training and with more former players in the training staff. Former Dutch international Wim Jonk was installed as head of the youth academy in the new organisation structure.
"It`s nice when you`re ranked high in such a survey," Jonk reacted. "Although the results are about players from a few years back, so in that respect, the results are not so much related to the present. But despite that, it is a nice compliment for the club."
The demographic analysis of teams of the principal European championships is based on the census carried out since 2009 by the CIES Football Observatory, on Oct 1st each year. In 2012, the study covered 473 clubs, 31 leagues and 11,631 footballers. The players are counted as players trained by a club if they have spent at least three years at a club between the age of 15 and 21 years old.
Among others, the former Ajax players Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburger SV), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Urby Emanuelson (Fulham), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Gregory van der Wiel (Paris Saint-Germain) and Maarten Stekelenburg (AS Roma) are mentioned.
"The Ajax youth has been regarded as top academy for decades," Jonk concluded. "Many clubs have tried to copy what is happening here. In this regard, there are not many secrets, the details and the people make the difference."