Arsene Wenger believes the FA and the Premier League must tackle wage inflation in youth academies to ensure players maintain the hunger to succeed at the highest level.
While England have enjoyed unprecedented success in the last 18 months with their Under-20 and Under-17 teams winning the World Cup and Under-19 squad victorious at the European Championship, the boss believes that young players at top clubs are at risk of developing bad habits having been paid so well from such a young age.
Speaking to Michael Calvin in the soon-to-be-released BT Sport documentary No Hunger in Paradise, Wenger explained: “If we had a system where the players earn the same up until the age of 17, when they turn professional, then they would choose clubs only for sportive reasons.
“The financial factor is a huge influence on where a player goes and that’s where the system is very poor. When things come too early, it can create bad habits, the feeling you are already there, and you don’t have the desire needed to make that big career.”
Arsenal are as guilty as anyone of using cash to persuade the world’s best players to join our academy. It’s just that in recent years our financial advantage has been weathered by the huge influx of cash from other clubs, including Manchester City and Chelsea.
In the same documentary, Wenger also explains that English clubs do well at fostering talent but then fail their youngsters when it comes to integrating them into the first team.
“There is huge English natural talent out there and the best way to prove that and to check that is if you look at the results of the young boys in England youth teams at international level.
“They start to win competitions, they start to exist in every big competition with the youth level. That means the talent is there. Now we go into process number three, the integration.
“I would say today, many, many, many clubs do well part one and part two – quality of education – there’s a lot work that has been done in England. We all fail in part three, integration into the first team.
“Nobody has found a miraculous solution because the Premier League has become so demanding that the gap between youth and reserve level and the Premier League is so big that all the managers sit there and sweat on the Friday night and finally think – let’s be conservative, we’ll see next week.”
No Hunger in Paradise, based on a book by journalist Michael Calvin, reveals that only half of one per cent of boys who enter academies at the age of nine go on to make a living from the game. That’s a staggering statistic.