1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Top and bottom

September 12, 2011

There's a lot separating Bundesliga bookends Bayern Munich and Hamburg at the moment, including 11 points in the table. But one statistic often gets overlooked: the number of homegrown players in their squads.

Bayern players
Bayern's home grown talent helps lift the club to the topImage: picture-alliance/dpa

One stereotype about Germany's most successful club is that they buy their way to titles, as if Bayern were the Bundesliga equivalent of Chelsea or Manchester City.

But while the millions Bayern splashed out this summer for players like Manuel Neuer or Jerome Boateng have undoubtedly helped lift them to the top of the table, with 12 points and a mind-boggling +15 goal difference after five rounds, money is by no means the whole story.

A rather more unsung part of Bayern's storied history is their ability to breed and stick with the talent that emerges from the club's own youth ranks.

Bayern field more homegrown players than any other team in the league. In Saturday's 7-0 demolition of Freiburg, five members of the starting 11 and seven players included in the squad cut their teeth in Grünwalderstrasse - where Munich's developmental squad play their home matches.

Together, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber have an estimated transfer value of around 120 million euros ($163 million). That's arguably worth more than any other entire squad in the league and only slightly less than what Bayern paid to acquire the services of Neuer and Boateng, plus superstars Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez.

So it's more accurate to say that Bayern use their enormous wealth to add players of extreme worth to a core of already high value.

And that formula has worked not only for Bayern but other recent Bundesliga teams as well.

Grow your own

The presence of homegrown players in a squad, which for the purposes of discussion can be defined as youngsters who joined a club at the age of 16 or younger, is a fairly decent indicator of whether a team will have success.

Sahin and Götze celebnrate
In Sahin and Götze, Dortmund bred two world-class playersImage: picture alliance/dpa

Two of the previous three non-Bayern Bundesliga champions were heavily homegrown. The 2007 Stuttgart squad that unexpectedly claimed the "salad bowl" were led by Gomez, Sami Khedira, Serdar Tasci and Timo Hildebrand. Gomez and Khedira moved on to Bayern and Real Madrid respectively, earning Stuttgart tens of millions in the process.

And last season's standard setters Dortmund featured Nuri Sahin, Mario Götze and Kevin Grosskreutz, local kids who sparked the current younger-is-better trend in the Bundesliga.

But teams need patience if they want to get maximum value out of their youth divisions. Many fans have forgotten, for instance, that Bayern loaned out Germany national captain Lahm to Stuttgart for two seasons to allow him to develop.

The same was true with Sahin and Dortmund, who sent the superlative midfielder to the Rotterdam club Feyenoord to mature.

The dividends were titles. And if there's any question as to the importance of having faith in players a team has spent years training, there's the example of Hamburg.

New, not necessarily better

At the other end of the spectrum, the only homegrown player in cellar-dwelling Hamburg's squad in their 2-0 loss to Bremen on Saturday was 18-year old defender Janek Sternberg, who spent all 90 minutes on the bench.

Hamburg players hang their heads
Hamburg are paying the price for letting good youngsters goImage: dapd

Hamburg generated a grand total of one serious chance on goal in the game against their fiercest regional rivals and remain stuck on a lone point after five rounds.

If they watched Leverkusen's 4-1 thrashing of Augsburg on Friday, Hamburg Sporting Director Frank Arnesen and coach Michael Oenning were surely gnawing their fists. The man of that match, who scored two more goals than Hamburg got shots on target, was Sidney Sam, who played from age of 14 to 20 for Hamburg.

HSV then loaned the promising winger out for two seasons to Kaiserslautern, but failed to get the young talent to re-sign. He thought he'd prefer to take his chances at Leverkusen, another club with a good record of giving youth a fair shake.

The same story repeated itself this summer, with the northern Germans losing offensive talents Eric Choupo-Moting to Mainz, and Tunay Torun and Änis Ben-Hatira to Hertha Berlin - both clubs with traditionally far less clout than Hamburg.

Sidney Sam
Hamburg dropped the ball with Sidney SamImage: picture alliance/dpa

Hamburg earned a grand total of 400,000 euros from these players' exits. Bafflingly, while it was releasing its own young talents, two of whom were born and raised in the city, the club was bringing in untested youngsters from Arnesen's former team Chelsea.

Choupo-Moting and Torun are off to respectable starts for their new clubs, with a goal apiece. Meanwhile, none of Hamburg's Chelsea boys have shown potential for being appreciably better than the ones they let go.

A poor youth record is not a new trend in Germany's second-largest city, where fans are perennially impatient for a return the glory days of the 1970s and ‘80s. Yet it's been ages since Hamburg's youth program has produced a national team player.

The situation is especially critical this year, with Hamburg not only having failed to win, but having been outplayed in all their matches thus far. Indeed, fans in the city are worried that the only club to have been part of the Bundesliga since its inception in 1963 could finally get relegated.

Hamburg's problems this season are by no means restricted to youth policies, and young, local players are but one piece of the puzzle. Still, if the unthinkable should occur and Hamburg's first-division run ends, it would be hard not to see relegation, in part, as an act of Greek nemesis for failing to trust one's own youth.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Matt Hermann