Wenger defends youth player moves

Wenger defends signing of youngsters

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has spoken out against any rise in the age at which young footballers can move between clubs.

The transfer ban imposed on Chelsea over their approach to Lens winger Gael Kakuta, now 18, in 2007 has prompted suggestions the system be reformed.

“Look at the alternative. The player will be sold anyway,” said Wenger.

“To whom? To agents. At what age? At 13, 14. Where will they go? Not to top-level clubs with top-level education.”

Arsenal’s wide-ranging scouting network and Wenger’s policy of developing young players within the club has made the issue salient at the Emirates.

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The Gunners club captain Cesc Fabregas was in the youth ranks at Barcelona before being brought to London as a 16-year-old in 2003.

Midfielder Fran Merida, also 16 at the time, followed Fabregas from the Nou Camp in the summer of 2006.

First-team squad members Nicklas Bendtner, Armand Traore, Alex Song and Johan Djourou, along with goalkeepers Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny, all also joined from abroad before they turned 18.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, has called for a change to the rules to keep players from moving internationally before that age.

But Wenger believes the trade in players over the age of 16 should remain unrestricted, even if compensation for clubs losing players should be reviewed.

“If your players cannot move to the best clubs, I believe they will not improve,” he said.

Blatter promises young players protection

“If you have a child who is a good musician, what is your first reaction?

“It is to put it into a good music school, not in an average one, so why should that not happen in football?

“You can speak about the compensation level, is it right or not. I am open to that.”

In the wake of England’s qualification for next year’s World Cup, Wenger also suggested that the influx of talent helps, rather than hinders, young English players.

“To expose your local players to top-world class players does not harm your players, it improves your players,” he added.

“It respects one basic rule – the best to become better have to play better.”

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