Clairefontaine, France. The beating heart of French football’s youth system, and the inspiration behind my latest Football Manager adventure. Famous graduates include Theirry Henry, Blaise Matuidi, and most recently, Kylian Mbappe himself.
There are multiple aspects of the Clairefontaine system which lend themselves to being implemented in club football, and the implementation of the Academy’s philosophy across French club football is one of the overarching goals of the establishment.
“That is the goal. To show others what they are supposed to do. One day, when all the clubs share this philosophy, Clairefontaine will not be needed any more. It will disappear.”Jean-Claude Lafargue
Where better to implement the Clairefontaine philosophy than at Lafargue’s old club, Paris FC and in their 50th year as a club, no less!
In real life, the Academy recruits just 23 players per season, and this 23 goes through a strict vetting process to ensure they’re the kind of player who will thrive at Clairefontaine. To make the cut, players must be aged between 13 and 15, hold French citizenship and play or live locally to the Academy.
Additionally, one of the most important building blocks of the system is not to see what a player is now, but what he can become. Youngsters often develop physically late, and while in the past Clairefontaine judged players on their physicality and pace, the focus is moreso now on mental and technical attributes.
All age groups train in the same formation and system, with first-year players focusing on individual technical improvements, before progressing into small-sided games with a team focus, before finally moving to full-sided games and senior football.
Obviously, there are certain aspects of that philosophy that it is difficult to replicate in FM – particularly the age limitation, and replicating the focus on small-sided games in a player’s second stage at the academy. However, based on the Training setup in on FM19, and with the introduction of the Development Centre on FM20, I’m hoping that it will be easier to pick out and develop the best talent from both our own youth intakes, and those from local Parisian clubs.
The Focus Points
The main focus of this save is to develop a clear pathway from youth intake through to the first team. The most important part of this is to develop a clear footballing identity which is consistent throughout all age groups at the club. As well as this identity, I need to pick out the most important attributes for the youth players, and plan the development pathway into the first team.
For me, the Key attributes i’ll be looking for when scouting young players are:
I believe that these are the six key attributes for success; the reason i’ve opted for mental attributes over physical and technical, as it has historically been easier for me to train physical and technical attributes into players. The only additional requirement for players being signed is having a base level of ability in the technical aspects of their favoured positions.
I’ll discuss more about the development pathway once the game’s out and we’ve had a good look at the Development Centre etc, but the plan is to have a 2-step program for new intake players which spans two years, developing both technical and physical aspects before moving a player into the next stage of the youth setup where they get extensive gametime and develop the weak aspects of their game. From there, the player’s next step will depend on their development trajectory and the makeup of the squad.