The recently concluded group stages of the UEFA Champions League, the premier football tournament of Europe, saw participation from mere 21 English players from the four English teams. The number becomes appalling when one finds only Belarus and Russia having less participation in the event.
At a time when all kinds of questions are being asked about the future of English football, the FA finds itself again in a quarry in light of this statistic. Brazilians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans, and Frenchmen lead the list in terms of number of players represented, with England having only half the number of players boasted by the latter.
Out of the four English teams, Manchester City had three, while Chelsea had four. Liverpool, who will be plying their trade in the Europa League, show representation from six, with Arsenal having the most - seven.
Out of these, four - Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole - have already retired from international football, while the total number also includes debuts for academy players in relative meaningless fixtures.
The paucity of home-grown English players is a serious cause of concern for the FA, as it looks to build a squad that can understand each other and can seriously challenge for titles.
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Other managers echo the same view that Champions League is one of the greatest learning opportunities for youngsters, and that, if academy players are exposed more to these kinds of games, it will help them in reaching the level of maturity much faster.
Jose Mourinho has termed the day, when he handed Ruben Loftus-Cheek his debut, as the "academy day" honouring the work done with the youngsters. He said: "If you don’t bring kids through the academy, the best thing is to close the academy.
"If the kids are not good enough or the work not good enough and you don’t bring kids up, then close the door and use the money to buy players."
Gerrard Houllier, the former Liverpool manager, is of the view that Champions League is an integral part of a player's development. “The top level, the top competitions are the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League,” he said.
“The Champions League is played every year so if you manage to get some matches under your belt in that competition it will obviously raise your level."
The number has been on a consistent decline and has achieved a five-year low this season.
It is highly unexpected that we will see greater participation in the coming stages, as the competition will get tougher and the likes of Mourinho and Wenger will not hedge on their youngsters to guide them to victory.