The NextGen Series will be replaced this season by the inaugural UEFA Youth League, but will the competition create a long-term platform for academies to compete across the continent? And is it worth the trouble?
Is there any point in the continents best academies competing every season for a European trophy? Will it help individuals future development?
This season sees a change in terms of the European competition academies will be involved in.
For the last two seasons, the NextGen Series has held a tournament in the style of the Champions League to allow the most progressive academies to compete in European competition in order to gain experience for future development and reward the clubs whose academies are producing strong teams.
Now, due to funding issues, the tournament has been scrapped and UEFA will this season introduce their own version of an academies tournament, but only for the clubs whose senior teams are competing in the main competition.
Is it fair that only these teams are allowed to compete but the academies who have previously been invited on merit to play in the NextGen Series, are forgotten?
Yes, the tournaments are run by completely different people, but once again it seems that UEFA is solely focused on promoting it's own image as opposed to genuinely rewarding the most progressive academies.
The NextGen Series included academies such as Rosenborg and Molde FK of Norway, PSV Eindhoven, Aston Villa, Anderlecht and VFL Wolfsburg. All teams who were invited for their hard work in improving their academies as opposed to the reputation of the club in Europe.
The UEFA Youth League is just a mini-Champions League for the academies and is solely focused on providing the players with a similar experience of European competition as opposed to pitting the most deserving academies against each other.
Perhaps it will create some respectable television viewing figures and even form a demand for the tournament from fans, but will it actually do anything to help the players progression? Will it help "bridge the gap to their first team," as UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino expects?
My guess is no. The experience, in football terms, will not help acclimatise any of the players to the style needed to compete in the Premier League. Therefore it cannot help them improve physically and technically to reach their respective senior teams.
The experience will simply give them a small taste of what an evening European match is like, but with small crowds and plenty of travelling, will the players truly appreciate the opportunity?
For this writer, the tournament is just an advert for UEFA and will do nothing to help the academies participating other than give them a bit of added fame and recognition in the media.
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