Premier League prospers from foreign club partnerships

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Football News

As Tottenham edge closer to the £11million capture of long-term transfer target Leandro Damiao, the highly-rated Brazilian striker, the benefits of Premier League clubs' sporting partnerships with a growing number of foreign counterparts is clear.

Whether it's to create the opportunity to loan out inexperienced youngsters, to allow young, foreign players to gain a work permit, or for strategic business purposes such as merchandising, the motives for establishing such relationships are endless.

In England, the operation of an external feeder team is prohibited, and so agreements with other clubs are more informal, and traditionally between local teams. But, as the Premier League has continued to flourish on a worldwide scale, so too have its participating sides, many extending their search for prospective affiliates to all four corners of the globe.

Andre Villas-Boas spent time on a scouting trip to Brazil prior to his White Hart Lane appointment, but he would have been acutely aware of the link between Internacional - the nation's most famous club - and his impending employers.

Spurs signed midfielder Sandro from the South American side in 2010, 12 months after chairman Daniel Levy wrapped up a deal to have first option on the club's next generation of Brazilian superstars. AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato and Juventus defender Lucio both started their careers at Internacional, while Chelsea's new attacking midfielder, Oscar, also hails from the famed region of Porto Alegre.

The Blues have no real ties in Brazil, though - their links extend only as far as Europe - having in the past enjoyed a good relationship with Eredivisie outfit PSV Eindhoven. Liaisons first started in 2004 when former defender Alex was sent to Holland for three years, amid concerns about obtaining a work permit for the defender. Their alliance is also believed to have helped in securing the signature of Dutch winger Arjen Robben, when the player had looked set for a move to Manchester United.

Guus Hiddink also encouraged links with his former club whilst in temporary charge at Stamford Bridge, and Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's former sporting director, used to be assistant coach at PSV.

More recently, the Blues have established a connection with Belgian side Genk, after signing highly rated goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and young winger Kevin De Bruyne, who was loaned back to his former club last season, before being sent to Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen to continue his development in 2012-13.

Manchester United have arguably had the most success from unofficial partnership agreements, after their association with Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, prompted the Old Trafford arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and midfield compatriot Luis Nani.

However, their relationship was badly affected in 2007 when Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant Carlos Queiroz went on record to speak about his admiration for one of Sporting's players, leading to accusations of underhand tactics with United trying to unsettle prospective transfer targets.

Following the breakdown, the Premier League giants turned their attention to building and maintaining connections with Desportivo Brasil in Sao Paulo, after a concerted effort to find the best young talents in Brazil brought about the signing of the Da Silva twins, Rafael and Fabio.

United have also kept an informal tie-up with Royal Antwerp, which is primarily used to give youth academy graduates from Old Trafford first-team experience in the Belgian league.

Manchester City replaced their neighbours in a partnership deal with Sporting Lisbon in 2010, giving them first option on signing players from a club that has also produced world renowned stars like Luis Figo, Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho. Roberto Mancini is yet to reap any real benefits, though, with no impact made on the Citizens' first-team so far.



Liverpool's esteemed youth academy came into criticism after a barren spell of producing homegrown talent under the former stewardship of Rafael Benitez, despite millions of pounds of investment. The Spanish tactician chose instead to focus his energies on a partnership with Hungarian outfit MTK Budapest, choosing to import a number of talented prospects from that untapped region of Europe.

After no return on the controversial venture, the Anfield club severed ties with MTK, and under the new ownership of Fenway Sports Group have agreed an informal deal with Uruguayan club Nacional, in an attempt to tap into the academy that produced current Liverpool duo Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates.

Montevideo-based Nacional are at the forefront of a resurgence in Uruguayan football, having developed 14 players from last year's 23-man Copa America winning squad.

Suarez is the most high-profile success story, coming through the Nacional academy before joining Dutch club Groningen, and later moving to Ajax. In January 2011, he moved to Merseyside in a £22.7million deal, and has gone on to establish himself as one of Liverpool's star players.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has taken it upon himself to establish Arsenal ties with a number of clubs in his native France, the most recent of which coming in the form of FC Lorient, having been attracted to the club's style of play.

Christian Gourcuff - the father of French international and former Gunners target Yoann - has a philosophy for attractive, free-flowing football, and following the success of three of Arsenal's players, who have excelled on loan in Ligue 1, Wenger has made a habit of sending his up-and-coming stars there, to continue their development.

Since signing Laurent Koscielny from Les Merlus in July 2010, the loan gates, have opened up. Francis Coquelin, Gilles Sunu and Joel Campbell are testament to that, all prospering from Lorient's similar footballing ideals to the ones that Arsenal possess.

It's a partnership that benefits both parties. The French club have the opportunity to access players they otherwise wouldn't, while Arsenal have a platform for helping nurture their future talents. A marriage of convenience, if you will.

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