Manuel Veth –
On October 25 the Futbolgrad Network reported that VfB Stuttgart sporting director Michael Reschke was considering to de-register VfB Stuttgart’s reserve side. Some within the club, however, heavily criticised the plan given that the reserve side had always been an integral part of Stuttgart’s famous youth development program. Reschke has now come up with the idea that would see the introduction of a short-term loan system or farm team system not unlike it is the case in North American sports.
For many years VfB Stuttgart II was an essential stepping in-between stepping stone from youth football to the Bundesliga. Stars like Sami Khedira, Mario Gomez, Kevin Kuranyi, Bernd Leno and Joshua Kimmich all played for Stuttgart II before making the jump to the Bundesliga. Reserve sides are, however, not cheap and many players on the books of the second team never have the prospect to become an integral part of the first squad.
Furthermore, with Bundesliga sides bloodying young players at an ever younger age, Reschke doubts that the reserve side is still a viable part of Stuttgart’s youth development program. Reschke’s believe is echoed in the recent statements by RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick to an English news outlet.
Rangnick: 83% of the top Champions League Players played first-team football aged 17
Speaking to the English paper, Rangnick said: “I read an interesting article online saying around 83% of all the players from teams played in Champions League quarter-final last year had already played first-team football aged 17.”
Rangnick has long been considered as one of the primary drivers of Germany’s football reform, and his clubs have all banked on young players, who are not hardwired into bad practices, to play some of the most progressive football in Europe. His current club Leipzig are the best example, and Leipzig are already one step ahead of Stuttgart in having de-registered their reserve side from league pyramid.
Like Rangnick Reschke believes that young players need to play first team football in the Bundesliga or Bundesliga 2 to gain the necessary edge to become full-blown stars. While in charge at as managing director at Bayer Leverkusen Reschke was among the decision makers that disbanded Bayer Leverkusen’s U-23 (as Bayer’s reserve side was known) from the Regionalliga.
Instead, Bayer began a program where youth players were either directly brought into the first squad or players were sent out on loan. The recent examples of Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt shows that Bayer’s youth development prospered from the decision. Talents that needed extra seasoning like Dominik Kohr were sent out on loan to smaller Bundesliga sides where they received valuable playing time.
Leverkusen demonstrates that teams can do without reserve sides and still develop youth players. But what about players that break through the U-19 and are too good to be loaned out, but at the same time cannot find playing time with the first team? Here Reschke believes that the DFL should look into reforming the loan system.
Short-Term Loan System has Some Flaws
Similar to what is the case in England Reschke wants to introduce the possibility of having players registered at two clubs for a short period. This would allow players to be sent out on short-term loans to Bundesliga 2 or Liga 3 sides.
Reschke told Germany’s kicker that this would be an “interesting alternative. We have sent a working letter to the DFL-Commission to stipulate dialogue in this matter.” The working letter also includes a survey to get a picture from the remaining 35 clubs in Germany.
As stated above the short-term loan system was for a long time used in England. Known as emergency loan window, smaller clubs were allowed to sign players on a short-term deal ranging from 28 to 93 days. Ultimately the emergency loan system was designed to help out small clubs to bring in players to fill in holes in their squad—in many cases, however, significant clubs would use it to send out talented players to gain playing time.
This sort of system is also used in German professional ice hockey. Club’s from the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German hockey league) often sign cooperation agreements with DEL2 clubs and send young players out on loan. This system is borrowed from North America where most professional leagues have a farm team system. Of course, the lack of promotion and relegation in the North American sport makes this much more comfortable, but the system could also work with promotion and relegation.
Perhaps the most significant issue with the loan system, in general, are competitive rules and fan identification. Bundesliga 2 and Liga 3 sides could start abusing the loan system to save money, and instead of bringing up their young stars could merely loan players from the big clubs. Furthermore, seeing a player play for your club for just one to three months is not exactly in the ethos of club identification. Hence, while the short-term loan system could provide a means for clubs to get rid of their reserve sides the short-term loan system could create some new problems and further exasperate the problems of fan identity.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.