There is no more sobering a moment as a football fan than when you see players that are younger than you start filtering into the first teams of clubs at any level. But when those players then go on to secure big-money moves to European giants like Bayern Munich at the end of their first year of football, well that’s just plain depressing.
Obviously it is Dale Jennings, formerly of Tranmere Rovers in League 1, who is being discussed here. But one of the nagging questions about this move is why he ended up on a plane to Germany when there were surely plenty of other suitors in England?
What is important to remember about this transfer is that it is highly unlikely that Jennings will appear regularly, if at all, for the Bavarian side for the first couple of seasons that he is at the club. While this might seem like a backward step due to the fact that he has just finished his first full year in first team football, he is heading to Munich as a young player with a lot to still learn. Arguably Germany has a much better system of progression from youth team through to First Team than a lot of clubs in England, particularly those playing at the upper end of the Premier League.
An example of this can be seen from the sheer number of players that have made the step up from Bayern Munich II, the reserve team, to the Bayern first team. The set-up in Germany, similar to how it works in Spain, is that the reserve teams play in leagues against other non-reserve teams. This allows the players to achieve promotion (up to a certain point), suffer relegation and feel as if they are part of an actual team rather than the back-up squad in case of injury to a ‘genuine’ star player. Players such as Dietmar Hamann, Owen Hargreaves and Bastian Schweinsteiger all began life in the Bayern II squad before breaking into the first team. Last season’s club captain Philipp Lahm also started in the same squads, however he was loaned out to Stuttgart for 2 years before being brought back to the Allianz Arena.
The system seems to work better than in the top clubs in England, with the likes of Manchester United buying in the majority of the young players that will eventually play regularly in the first team, such as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Although Bayern have in fact done this to bring Jennings to the club, it is a move that the player himself will have to work extremely hard on in order to make it a success. He has burdened himself with having to learn a new language, a new culture and a different style of football at a young age, which is an extremely brave thing to do.
Bayern also called upon the testimony of the previously mentioned Dietmar Hamann while weighing up their options. The former Liverpool and Manchester City midfielder reassured the club that from what he had seen, Jennings had the makings of a great player and would fit well into life in Germany.
What we as fans of the English game should worry about is that this could have been a move inspired by Jennings realising that going abroad would make him a better player. After all, that is the reason that the host of foreign stars that arrive to play in England give at their first press conferences. Is it possible that we no longer offer the best chance for young British talent to fully develop because of the nature of our transfer market? If so, it is a worrying trend should it continue.
Is the Jennings transfer a sign of things to come? Or is this simply a case of an exceptionally-talented young player achieving a dream move? Let me know what you think on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/_tomclose