Youth Development: Scouting and Recruitment

We said a while back we were working on writing about this subject. Since then we haven’t had much time but have pitched ideas back and forth and came up with some decent, original and, most importantly, successful ways of scouting and recruiting youth. We also have a lot more to come from this series as we’re interested in the concepts of training, coaching, fitting them in tactically and a lot more.

Unfortunately, unless you’ve got near-perfect facilities and are extremely lucky, the majority of decent youth players in your squad won’t have come through your academy. It would, undoubtedly, be lovely if you could produce 10 or so players to either keep or sell on every season. However this just isn’t sustainable and you’re going to have to do what other teams do, and pinch the best from other clubs, else the best teams are going to go from strength to strength and you’ll miss out financially.

Cesc Fabregas – a player “poached” by Arsenal from Barcelona’s academy back in 2003

This is quite realistic and teams in the Premier League do precisely this. Think of young Manchester United prospects like Macheda, Petrucci, Fornasier and Joshua King. They’ve all been poached from clubs across the globe purely to play in their U18s and see how they develop. A high-profile case of this happening was when Arsenal bought Cesc Fabregas back in 2003, if signing 16 year olds from around the world gets you a Cesc Fabregas you certainly wouldn’t complain.

This means that scouting and buying young players is, in my opinion, if not one of then the most important part of the youth development process. Actually getting your hands on the decent youngsters is absolutely crucial, as opposed to hoping your 1.5 star local youngster’s value rises so you can make a profit on him simply because he’s local. Release him and get some high potential, better-shaped player to sell on 5 years later for 10 times the fee you paid.

Scouting

Scouting is actually really simple, it just takes a bit of thought and time. Of course, at the start of games if you’re a particularly big team, you’ll most likely know the majority of “wonderkids” and bargain buys. This means that, for a few seasons until the game’s only wonderkids are newgens, you don’t need to go scouring the globe looking for the next Messi as you have a general idea of who these are. It would be very wise to shortlist and subscribe to the news items of these players in case they’re going cheap at some point, though.

Get used to asking your board for more scouts

Consequently you have a few seasons to concentrate on just getting scouts in and nagging the board at every opportunity to let you have more. At some point you’ll find all the 17 year olds you once knew are now key players for teams and there’s a brand new crop coming through you have no idea about. This can be scary, which is why having your scouts ready to find talent is really important.

There are only a few things you should consider when bringing a scout in. The most important for most scouts is not their JPA or JPP (Judging Player Ability/Potential), it is, in fact, their knowledge of countries. Having knowledge of as many countries as possible is absolutely vital.

Having knowledge of a foreign but renowned for youth country means several things: the scout will give a more accurate estimate on transfer fees (other scout abilities pending); he will be able to scout any opponents you play in continental competitions more efficiently and it will vastly increase the number of players in your knowledge range when using search filters. Looking for 2025’s Didier Drogba becomes a lot harder when you don’t recognise anyone.

As such, you need to hire scouts who work very hard searching the globe for knowledge of the teams there. Choosing the leagues you want to scout takes a bit of thought and depends on your own save – what leagues you have loaded and what team you are. Obviously, the leagues you have loaded load more players than leagues you don’t have. This means there’s a better chance of good regens being produced and, because the league is fully simulated, they develop faster than youth players in leagues you don’t.

In the save I will use as an example, I loaded the top tiers of Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain and England down to League One. Nations such as Brazil, Argentina and even, mainly in FM, African ones should be scouted if you have any scouts left over as they produce great youth regardless and can be picked up cheaply.

The type of scout you want watching these leagues is an important decision to make. Good knowledge of the country is a given, Adaptability if they’ve not got full knowledge or if you’d like them to alternate. Determination, JPA and JPP are important but you don’t need 16+, you just want to find a large quantity of players so top-notch scout ability isn’t necessary.

You can then have one or two scouts with great values in these areas who gives a proper 2/3 game report on anyone promising. Not giving these scouts any assignments means they’re free just to look at the best ones you find and will tell you in backroom advice whenever there’s a competition on or if there’s a nation you’re not scouting. You don’t have to use this scout to scout he things he recommends, you can use it as a helpful reminder to get some other scout to do it.

The save I will use to show examples of the scouts I buy is my Everton one, I have limited resources but I’m still a high rep team, meaning you can scale your preferences up or down according to your own club’s reputation and wealth.

As mentioned before, I loaded the Belgian, English, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish leagues. It makes sense to scout my own league with 3 or 4 scouts, then the ones I have loaded, then African and South American ones, in order of preference, as well as keeping one scout left over to give the final look over any potential signings.

I was allowed 9 scouts at game start but, after asking the chairman for more, I am allowed 13. After 4 scouts for the English league I have 9 left over for the leagues I have loaded (6), then 3 more for whatever else. I personally got an extra “head” scout and got a scout for Brazil and Argentina.

The best example of a work-horse scout is my French one, Willy Sagnol.

He may not be the best scout in the world, but he has knowledge of two nations that produce good youth players, is young, determined and very cheap. He’ll give me above average reports on lots of players in Central Europe for me to let my best scouts have a closer look.

My best scouts need to have very good JPA/JPP, tactical knowledge and knowledge of as many countries my other scouts will be scouting as possible.

Recruitment

Buying young players is surprisingly easy, get in there early and you can pick up high potential youngsters for very cheap prices. Young players, remember, aren’t the best personality-wise and can kick up a fuss over the slightest thing, meaning they get unsettled very easily and allowing you to get otherwise un-attainable great young players very cheaply. This is often a bad personality trait, and you’ll want to avoid this happening to you when you do sign these players, however, tutoring them is the best way to prevent this.

Another way of getting the very young players is, perhaps immorally, taking advantage of youth who haven’t signed pre-contract deals whom you can sign for a small compensation fee. Taking advantage of this works really well, although can trigger the club he plays for into giving him a contract, so you’d better hope he isn’t too loyal.

In Spain, for instance, players aren’t allowed to sign professional contracts until they turn 18 – Arsenal have taken advantage of this in the past, and this is reflected in-game – meaning youth from there are easy to sign for very cheap. I’m not too fond of doing this as I’m unsure whether it’s classed as cheating or not. My personal approach is to try to negotiate a reasonable transfer fee with the club firstly, and if that doesn’t work, “Approach to sign” the player.

Loaning them and promising a future fee is sometimes a good way to get around youngsters you want to buy but you believe to have a bad personality and aren’t sure if they’re worth the risk. Paying a very small fee for a year where you can tutor the player and see if he’s going to develop well is a great idea.

I like to release all players below around 2 star potential, see what I have left then buy players to make up my U18 team with 2 players for each position or so. This isn’t achievable when playing with teams without much money so keeping young duds is something I’ve had to do on my save with Everton.

On that save, however, I have used some of the methods detailed above to land quite a few youngsters you wouldn’t think were within Everton’s reach.

Maniche, Guti, Friedrich and Helan were signed primarily for the present as backup for my very thin squad so ignore those. None of these players are newgens so you’re probably familiar with them.

Mpasi is an odd case. He was a young 16 year old goalkeeper and my scouts couldn’t decide whether he was a 3 star definite signing or a 2.5 star goalkeeper who wouldn’t be close to my current backup. His contract expires 30th June 2012 so I paid a small fee to take him on loan for a year and plan to sign him for free when his contract expires, the same date his loan deal expires. He’s very young for a goalkeeper and I’m relatively inexperienced at spotting potential in goalies, he did well for my U18s, anyway.

Niang is someone who, when I played as Manchester United, I willingly paid around £11 million for. He’s rated as having more potential than anyone at the club (bar Ross Barkley and Jairo) and looks set to be an ace forward for any team on the game. How, then, did I get him for a mere £3.6 million, you ask? AC Milan’s manager started making a few comments which unsettled him and, when I saw they’d agreed a move as cheap as that, I offered the same and gave him a higher wage. A small price to pay for someone of that calibre. To prevent the same happening to me he’s being tutored by one of my most loyal players, Tim Cahill, quite ironic as he left the club in real-life a few weeks ago!

Schnellhardt was a regrettably rushed signing, I was worried I had no attack-minded central midfielders coming through and panic-bought. I will make a profit on him for sure, though. Jairo was a similar story to Niang although he wasn’t unsettled by another club, I believe his old club, Racing, played him twice then demoted him to their “B” squad, which he was angered by and wanted out.

The next transfer similar to this I’m working on is a young 15 year old French newgen goalkeeper my scouts believe will be miles better than Tim Howard. I could have approached him and paid £500,000 but I felt that wouldn’t have been fair to his club, Montpellier, and agreed a £1.5 million deal with them directly. Like I said, I’m a terrible judge of keepers, but he should be pretty good if he turns into half the player he could be.

So that’s my strategy of finding and attracting players. It’s certainly not flawless and takes a bit of work to implement but, after doing so, you should constantly be in a position where you know the future greats of your save, and have your hands on a few of them.

2 comments on “Youth Development: Scouting and Recruitment

  1. Good read as usual. On a slightly related subject you mentioned some of the scout attributes but I have done some limited testing that struggled to show any major differences in any of the attributes apart from JPA/JPP. EG Scouts with varying determination seemed to come up with the same list of players over a 6 month period etc How would you view which are the important attributes and what each actually does

    • Thank you.

      That is very interesting, I can’t say I’ve done much testing myself, but I find it hard to believe only two attributes control how good a scout actually is at his primary job. Determination is something I look in all my staff and players so seemed logical, but my point was how gaining as much knowledge of countries as possible should be your main concern. Adaptability seems to be how quickly the scout gains knowledge of countries he’s scouting so is a crucial attribute, especially in the long run as more newgens are introduced and, without constant scouting of a country, knowledge would fall meaning less players in the player search for you to filter through.

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