Which Premier League rival has Villas-Boas dubbed 'like Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona'?

He was in fact referring to today's opponents; in specific regard to Southampton's academy system.

Tottenham welcome Southampton to White Hart Lane this afternoon as the visitors look to get the final points to ensure Premier League survival; while Spurs chase a Champions League place.

But don’t be surprised if before the game the Tottenham Hotspur gaffer Andre Villas-Boas goes around thanking a few people from his opposition. Because the main man in any Spurs push this season has been Gareth Bale.

The Welsh wizard secured the Football Writers Player of the Year Award on Thursday to add to his PFA double of Player and Young Player of the Year award; and of course his talents were originally honed at Southampton’s increasingly famed youth academy.

Bale signed for the club at aged nine and made his debut in 2006. Originally a left-back he demonstrated his pace and an ability to score from set-pieces from a very young age and was soon being linked with several big clubs including Manchester United.

He left the cash-strapped South Coast side in 2007 for a fee that has now been settled at £7 million.

And it is Southampton who AVB has been prasing in respect to the way they bring through their young talents:

"Southampton falls into the same category as Sporting Lisbon, like Barcelona, which is to nurture."

He is certainly not wrong as Bale is of course not the only big name to come out of the Southampton academy.

Without going as far back as the days of TV pundits Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier you can still see plenty of examples in a more contemporary set of examples.

The Arsenal pair of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined cost the North London club a cool £27 million. Both are now established members of the full England squad.

Then there is Nathan Dyer. Although not at the heady heights of his Arsenal contemporaries he has still achieved plenty as part of an excellent Swansea City side.

Whilst at Southampton there is Adam Lallana. The captain, who overcame a heart ailment early in his career, is now a recognised member of the first-team squad making over 200 appearances and earning an England call-up at the beginning of this season.

With the likes of Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse already emerging it seems this trend will continue long into the future. If Southampton can start holding on to such players than perhaps Mauricio Pochettino’s Champions League dream is not as farfetched as we first thought.

What do you make of Southampton FC’s academy?

image: © wonker

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