It’s All About The Youth
As we watch Maccabi Tel-Aviv try to buy its way to a championship next season, one has to wonder, is this the right way to build a football club, or a league? It’s understandable that a team which finished a distant third from the top two finishers would want to strengthen itself, but a team must build itself for the long term. Maccabi has already made four changes to the squad and the number could be as high as eight by the time the transfer season ends. When we look at successful clubs, that are financially strong and win championships over long periods of time; Who do we think of? Domestically Maccabi Haifa comes to mind as such a club. After becoming champions at the beginning of the decade with foreign players as a base, the owner of the team Yaakov Shahar realized that in order to sustain the clubs success without profligate expenditure, he must invest in the development of youth players and bring them up through the club. As a result, Maccabi Haifa arguably fields the best youth teams in Israel, and has the best facilities and training staff for the nurturing of Israel’s best talents. These results paid off when Maccabi Haifa reached the Champions League last season for the first time since 2002, but this time many of the squad were players that had been brought up through the clubs youth system. Today half of the squad is made up of players graduated from Maccabi Haifa’s Academy. This should be a model for other Israeli clubs to follow, and will improve the general quality of Israel’s football league.Many of Israel’s top youth players have moved abroad after being unable to receive the instruction they need to develop as players. Players like Gai Assulin, Ben Sahar, Nes Zamir, Nir Mansour, Eli Zizov, Rami Gershon, and Amir Abeles all left Israel because of better opportunities to learn the game. If Israeli clubs can retain talents like these it will be a boon to Israeli football and the development of Ligat Ha’al. If Mitch Goldhar has a long term vision of success for Maccabi Tel-Aviv then he should follow Maccabi Haifa’s lead. Indeed all clubs in Israel should learn from Maccabi Haifa’s success, even with modest financial resources a club can improve its youth division and be successful.