Alan Hansen coined the phrase ‘you can’t win anything with kids’ having made the remark after Manchester United 3-1 loss on the opening game of the season in 1995 versus Aston Villa. The summer previous the manager Alex Ferguson had sold senior players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis and introduced youth team players Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville into his first team. United went on to famously win the league and cup double that season.
Statistics from the 2014/15 season might now go some way to proving Alan Hansen right. Across the top five leagues in Europe, the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, statistics show that in fact the teams that have won domestic titles have not been very reliant at all on players under the age of 21.
In Spain, Barcelona the winners of La Liga, played players under 21 for just 1.6% of the season. Valencia put their faith in youth with 25.5%. In France, Paris Saint Germain scored the highest of any top league winner with just 11.4%, AS Monaco led the way somewhat surprisingly with 34.6% of their pitch time being taken up by young players. Bayern Munich scored just 4.5% in Germany, Juventus 1.5% in Germany and Chelsea 2.2% in England. All in all under 21 footballers played less than 2% of minutes in 27 teams out of the total 98 clubs.
This research conducted by the CIES Football Observatory shows that the successful teams did not take a risk on young players in the pursuit of league trophies.
Some notable exceptions across the five leagues are Liverpool, the highest scorers in England with 19.8% which shows that manager Brendan Rodgers has stuck with his policy of playing young players at the club, albeit with little success in this recent campaign. The Reds rank eighth out of the 98 teams in Europe’s major leagues.
Leverkusen in German scored an impressive 23.1%, whilst still being relatively successful at the same time having qualified for the Champions League in fourth place. Finally, Empoli led the way in Italy with 23.3%; the Florence team finished 15th in the table.
So, just maybe Alan Hansen had a point back in 1995, as none of the winners in Europe’s top five league won anything with kids this season! See the full tables below.