Europe’s top clubs with most academy player minutes in 2021/22 – GiveMeSport

Making use of academy and homegrown players is vital for top clubs with elite players only becoming more expensive.

While we as fans are used to seeing the biggest teams in European football splash the cash, the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and many others have earned a reputation for having exceptional academies.

And that’s without considering Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester City, who have joined the race in recent years alongside their rise to prominence.

Fans love the excitement of expensive transfers, but there’s nothing that beats a good academy success story.

From the ‘Class of 92’ to the endless stars that have come out of La Masia, every top club wants that fairytale, but the reality is it’s a very difficult one to achieve.

We see it every few years. A club’s current academy crop gets hyped up and touted for big things, only for most of them to unfortunately not meet the expectations. In reality, though, if clubs can get one, or perhaps two players that make the first team following graduation from the academy, it’s a good return.

Breaking into the first team at a ‘leading’ club in Europe, then, is understandably difficult. But there are clubs who have made a considerable effort to make use of their talented academy representatives and continue to do so, which was monitored over the 2021/22 season.

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A graphic produced by The Athletic has gathered interest over on Reddit, detailing the ‘leading European clubs’ who gave the most minutes to academy players last season. And with one eye on the 2022/23 campaign which is merely weeks away, the table provides a good insight as to what to perhaps expect from teams next season.

Taking data from some of the most popular clubs within Europe’s top five leagues, the results come across as rather surprising. Let’s take a look.

The Athletic's graphic for academy player minutes at Europe's top clubs

Barcelona comfortably lead the way, having given an astounding 21,703 minutes to academy players last season. In a difficult time for the club, those academy and homegrown stars have been key, from Gerard Pique and the old guard, to younger talents like Pedri and Gavi.

But having gone on a rather surprising spending spree this summer, bringing in Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha so far, monitoring their academy player usage next season will be fascinating.

Chelsea sit in third place and finish highest out of the English teams who made the list, with 15,584 minutes given to academy players. For a club that has such an esteemed academy, Chelsea are regularly accused of not making enough use of the talents that emerge from it.

Mount and James celebrate
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 04: Mason Mount celebrates with Reece James of Chelsea after scoring their team’s second goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at London Stadium on December 04, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The numbers are even more surprising considering they sold Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori last summer, both of whom have quickly blossomed some of the best players in Serie A and would have surely featured prominently by now. Romelu Lukaku’s return to the club boosted the number, as did the likes of Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Mason Mount.

It isn’t too much of a shock to see City second from the bottom as they continue to get to grips with their only improving academy, but it is certainly a surprise to see noisy neighbours United just one place above them and behind so many sides, including Paris Saint-Germain.

Erik ten Hag has been able to bring in a handful of signings in his first summer in charge, with Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez bolstering the squad.

Ten Hag watches Man United
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 19: Manchester United Manager Erik ten Hag looks on prior to the Pre-Season Friendly match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 19, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

However, the Dutchman has been known to make the most of talented youth stars, and United have another crop waiting to be given a chance to shine in Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal and Alejandro Garnacho, on top of the current academy products within the first team.

Tottenham have moved away from a policy of making the best of what they have since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino. And with Antonio Conte being backed significantly in the transfer market this summer, next season’s academy minutes could well decrease significantly, possibly in exchange for some silverware.

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