Can the Premier League develop their NextGen stars to ensure European success at the highest level?

Gnabry Arsenal NextGen V CSKA

Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa all have youth teams in the semi-finals of the NextGen tournament, with Tottenham Hotspur making the quarter-finals, but how many of these youngsters will get a chance at a senior level at those clubs?

With the success of sides like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Dortmund, and indeed the spectre of Financial Fair Play regulations on the horizon, there is an expectation that more top clubs will look increasingly to their youth academy to provide senior squad members in the future.

Whilst assembling squads of superstars has been the popular route to success for much of the past decade, watching Barcelona achieve their success by adding the odd big signing to a team predominantly made up of academy graduates has given English teams something to aim at.

The odd factor is that youth academies at the Premier League's top clubs have rarely had trouble producing excellent youngsters, and this year's NextGen tournament has demonstrated that very clearly.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Aston Villa make up three of the four semi-finalists, with Sporting completing the quartet by virtue of beating two other English teams in the knockout stages - Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. For all the praise that goes to Barcelona's La Masia academy, both Spurs and Chelsea beat their youngsters in Catalonia during this year's tournament.

The problem for youngsters in England is that the next stage seems almost impossible to take, with very few Premier League sides willing to offer a clear route into first team action. Chelsea are perhaps the most criticised in this regard, often sending players out on loan whilst at the same time bringing in another expensive superstar in their position.

How the stand out players from this year's NextGen tournament progress will be a good barometer of whether there has been a change in approach from Premier League sides.

With that competition running alongside the U21 Premier League, young players are given more of a chance to impress at youth level than ever before, but that will mean little if they never get an opportunity in the first team.

images: © nextgenphoto, © NextGen

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