The punishment for Ronaldo
The lecture for the students of «Management in Sports» RMA business school program was given by the director of the Academy FC Pedro Cunha Ferreira.
You did say that you don't consider your currently available infrastructure to be the main reason for the successes enjoyed by «Sporting» Academy? What is it then?
The main reason for our success, in my opinion lies in the concept that had been adopted by our Academy in selecting our players. The author of this concept is the man named Aurelio Pereirra. In 1988 he had pretty much single handedly created a scouting department, whose duties were solely to search for young talented players and which currently employs 150 strong staff. What is more important, is that he had formulated the key principles, in accordance with which the work had been and continues to be conducted up to this day. In my opinion, it is because of these principles, we have managed to raise the players such as the ones that are now forming the bulk of our club and our Academy. Such as for example, Futre, Figo, Ronaldo, Simao, Sabroso, Cuarezma, Nani. I think it is these very principles that allowed us since 2002 to prepare 30 players that are currently forming the main body of «Sporting», while selling of our players to other clubs had brought us 100 million euros. Here is some data on our players in the Portuguese national team: in the period from 2008 they included 14 players that graduated our Academy. And here is also the titles won by our youth teams in different age groups over the same 10 years: 14 regional championships out of 26, and 18 national ones out of 21…
These are truly inspiring statistics. However could you clarify what exactly constitutes your aforementioned principles?
To define them concisely, the gyst of the matter is that when you look at our young players, our scouts always attempt to evaluate not so much how they are able to perform relative to their age peers, but rather to see them in perspective, trying to see them several years ahead, and understand the true capacity and the progress that could be further attained by the young player.
And you know what, neither Figo, nor Ronaldo were absolutely the best in their 12-13 years of age, when they just came to our Academy, some of their peers at the time ranked much higher than them, Or if we take Nani; we can't say that we were the only ones who had known about his existence. Before coming to our Academy, he went through a screening at «Benefica». However, they, unlike us, were not able to see through his talent.
Which characteristics of a young player do you pay most attention to?
First of all, when we talk about kids, we are trying to identify what we could call a team intellect, the ability to think outside of ordinarily, and make unexpected and original decisions on the field. Then, we of course look at the ball handling techniques, and only then at the player's physical development. When our youth teams meet their counterparts from other clubs, they usually find themselves being not as tall as their opponents, however they handily beat them in their understanding of the game. As the players age, starting from 14-15 years old, we, of course, staring to stress the importance of the physical performance as well as tactical. But generally, before that age we are trying not to get in the way of them simply enjoying playing soccer. We remember who we work with, that they are - kids, and so we are not trying to end their childhood as soon as possible…
Also something else. When reviewing the kid, we always pay attention to how innately he expresses the spirit of competitiveness, and how important it is for him to be the best in his area. For Ronaldo, there was hardly anything more important than that. He always strived for victory, every time, everywhere and in everything. And when he lost in anything at all, even when it was in playing ping pong, he was crying so genuinely, that you could instantly tell: the young lad wanted to be the champion so bad that one day he will very likely become one.
Until now you have been telling us about the achievements of your Academy, and how you are able to achieve your these results. But there must be certain problems as well, is there anything at all that you would still like to improve?
Absolutely. I won't be discussing here all of our shortcomings, which we definitely are able to see and recognize. But I will go over few of them. For example, I believe were aren't doing a good enough job motivating our coaches. And I'm talking about purely financial aspect: all of them receive salaries, and nothing else. There are no bonuses for the preparation of a good player that has grown into the main team, no payments to them after the sale of the player to another club, that entire system is pretty much absent at our Academy right now. For the past 10 years there was only single exception: a transfer of Ronaldo to «Manchester United», during which the coaches that worked with him had actually gotten some payments and premiums.
And speaking of the salaries: historically the way we've been operating offered notably higher financial reward to the coaches training adults, compare to those who trained kids. In my opinion that is a misguided imbalance, since the early stage of training is when the player receives his foundational knowledge, which at least equal if not even more important than everything else. Therefore, it is necessary to provide the resources to correct the existing imbalance, and I'm sure we will find them.
Finally, we should raise the awareness among our graduates concerning the aspects related to transferring to the other clubs. I've mentioned earlier, that in the past 10 years the sales of players to other clubs by our Academy had earned us 100 million euros. And in all honesty, I believe we could have earned much more from those players. So what is the problem then? On one hand, it is because we can't retain our own graduates, can't afford paying them the kind of salaries other clubs are able to offer. But on the other hand, the players that are often leaving us still being very young and not entirely matured, and therefore have not yet reached their true professional price. Unfortunately, many of them subsequently do not live up to the expectations bestowed on them: for example, among many of the players that were sold by us to the British premier leagues, very few managed to build truly remarkable carriers.