In the last twenty years, football has changed considerably. The Bosman ruling and the opening of borders, at least as regards European players (and those who have a European passport), have in fact globalized football very quickly, while the success of the Champions League has at least partially displaced football. the attention of the biggest clubs from the national to the continental championship, from the championship to the cup.
All this has increased exponentially the revenues (advertising or television) and investments of the companies, which, if they want to continue to remain competitive, can no longer be satisfied with the mid-level player or the novice coach, but must immediately aim for the big target.
In an increasingly competitive landscape, every year there are companies that collapse and resurrect, that manage to stay on the market, and others that must quickly get out of it to try to restore the balance sheet. The long-term strategy, the farsightedness of investments, therefore becomes fundamental; a strategy that few teams have been able to implement in time.
Two clubs that are based on shrewd investments, which not surprisingly have amply paid off, are certainly Ajax and Barcelona, companies united not only by financial strategy but also by a football philosophy that saw Johan Cruijff as the point of union. The youth sectors of these two clubs have for decades been the most esteemed, studied, and effective in Europe: let’s try to better discover their basic principles and some typical exercises.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Suitable Children Are Chosen
- 2 How Training and Matches Take Place
- 3 How the Sense of Belonging, Technical and Human, Develops
- 4 Exercises to Improve the Technique
- 5 Dynamic and Game Viewing Exercises
How Suitable Children Are Chosen
Personality, Intelligence, Speed
Let’s start from the beginning, that is, from the selection mechanism that leads companies to choose certain boys rather than others. The Ajax system is quite well-known: from an early age, young people from Amsterdam and the immediate surrounding areas are recruited, aware that who knows what talents are not needed at the beginning, but that the main skills can be taught within the structures. of Ajax. So the observers scan the local leagues and tournaments in search of young players, keeping in mind mainly three elements, which are not teachable and must somehow already be present in the boy: personality, intelligence, and speed.
The child, possibly identified within the tenth year, must in fact demonstrate that he has a good shot on the first ten meters (even without the ball), must show a certain intelligence on the field that will then allow him to be properly instructed by the lancers’ technicians and must have character, which according to the Dutch is seen in the fun he feels at playing football. Everything else, namely essentially the technique, can be acquired with targeted training, which is particularly effective between the ages of 8 and 12.
How Training and Matches Take Place
From 8 to 15 Years, the Decisive Age
This is the recruitment mechanism of Ajax, which does not differ much from that of Barcelona, which indeed with the arrival of Cruijff on the bench of the first team in 1988 imitated several of the red and white precepts. The training are also based on the same principles, even if over the years the two schools have partially differentiated: for example, in both societies, children between 8 and 11 years mostly learn to refine their technique and stay on the pitch, understanding the positions and movements necessary for the team’s balance; it is no coincidence that before the age of 8 children play first 4 against 4 and then 7 against 7 games, arriving at the 11-a-side pitch only at the end of this path.
From the age of 11 onwards we start working as a real team, while the boys discover the position of the field in which they perform best and the coaches begin to specialize them. The training sessions last about 90 minutes: the first quarter of an hour is dedicated to warming up, followed by 25 minutes aimed at achieving a specific goal that is generally established every 3/4 weeks, depending on the needs or deficiencies that the team has shown during matches; finally, the last 45 minutes are reserved for games with limited and controlled ranks, with particular rules or limitations that serve to test what has been learned or the particular machine on which one has worked.
How the Sense of Belonging, Technical and Human, Develops
The 4-3-3, the College, the Study
In addition to the work on the pitch, the strength of Barcelona and Ajax also lies in the ability to stimulate a sense of belonging in their players. It is no coincidence that many players, after retiring, in fact, decide to stay in the club – or, in the case of Ajax, to return at the end of their career, perhaps after playing for a few years in more profitable leagues -, so much do they feel linked to the team whose colors they defended for 15 or 20 seasons. A sense of belonging that is stimulated above all by making children feel part of a family.
Also Read: FIVE OF THE BEST BASEBALL MOVIES
The company, in fact, in both cases bears all the expenses: one vehicle picks up the children every day after school and takes them home for dinner if the player lives in the city or nearby; otherwise, as in the specific case of Barcelona, there is the Nuova Masia, a real college built inside the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper – the center of the Blaugrana youth teams – in which young people from more distant cities or from foreign countries they live, followed by specific educators who also support them in their studies until graduation.
But belonging is also seen on the pitch. All the youth teams of both Ajax and Barcelona play with the same form – 4-3-3 – and according to the same philosophy, which makes it very easy for a player to reach the first team because in fact, he continues to do so. those movements and that game that he has practiced all his life.
Exercises to Improve the Technique
The Rondo, the Tiki-Taka, the Bull, and the Squad
But we mention some of the most typical exercises carried out in training, from the youth to the first team, of these noble formations. Let’s start with the Rondo, an exercise introduced by Cruijff on his arrival at the Catalan bench and also imposed on all the youth teams: a square of about 10 meters is drawn with the Chinese people; two players are placed inside, while on the sides of the square there are respectively two, one, one and one opposing players, for a total of 5 men. At this point, the men on the sides of the square begin to pass the ball to each other and those in the middle must try to intercept it, in a sort of bull that, if age permits, can be complicated by imposing on external players a maximum of two touches or even only one.
A variation on the theme was introduced in Barcelona by Pep Guardiola, with a much larger square (about 30 meters on each side) and 7 players attacking against 4 trying to intercept the ball; the peculiarity of this variant is that the attackers are arranged two and two on two parallel sides, one and one on the other two sides and an attacker is finally inside the square, in the middle of the defenders, playing on the bank for his teammates and moving continuously.
Finally, from the Ajax school – which already uses it with the beginners – is a further variation on the theme: a square of about 20 meters per side is drawn with the Chinese players, on which sides are placed four players, one on each side; a fifth partner of these players is then placed inside, exactly in the center of the square, without the possibility of moving (while his companions can move along their side of competence). Inside the square, moreover, there are three opposing players. The aim is to weave a plot of passes between the five without the three being able to intercept the ball; the game ends not when one of the three recovers the ball, but only when he also manages to take it outside the square without being blocked by the opponents.
Dynamic and Game Viewing Exercises
Running and Constant Monitoring
At the football schools in Amsterdam and Barcelona, however, not only the exercises with the ball are important, but also the more properly dynamic and athletic ones. The game of these two teams is in fact purely offensive and needs players who know how to turn the ball but who are also able to win it back quickly when they lose it; in fact, tradition requires the two teams to have a very high defense, which inevitably leaves room for the counterattack and therefore asks the defenders a great speed of recovery. To stimulate these athletic abilities, the players – and in particular those of Ajax – are constantly monitored thanks to special software that measures progress, top speed, heart rate, and heart rate and a whole series of other values.
A typical exercise that is practiced by Dutch lancers is that of the “psychokinetic challenge”: in practice, some Chinese players of different colors, usually three or four, are arranged symmetrically on the two sides of a penalty area, usually three or four, according to always different geometric shapes (in a square, in a circle, in a triangle); then two rows of players are formed, parallel. When he kicks off, the coach indicates a sequence of colors (for example: blue, yellow, red) and the two players who compete must run as fast as possible to touch the Chinese players respecting that sequence, and then work on changes of direction. in speed; then you shoot towards the ball placed halfway between the two rows of Chinese players and the first one to get there will try to shoot at the goal and score to the goalkeeper,
Finally, an exercise that combines technique, speed, and above all attentional capacity is the one proposed by Isaac Oriol Guerrero of the Barcelona Training School: nine players are placed inside a square, divided into three groups of three according to the jersey of a different color; each player must receive a pass from a player wearing a shirt different from his established in advance and immediately pass the ball back to an exponent of the third color, and so on repeatedly; meanwhile, three additional players, one for each shirt color, go around the square carrying the ball and being careful to always be one on each side.
The player who receives the ball, therefore, in addition to stopping and passing the chosen boy must also announce aloud the color of the shirt of the boy who is walking, behind him, on the relative side of the square. This exercise, which may seem very complicated, actually greatly stimulates the ability to decide in advance who to pass the ball to, identify the most suitable player, and always keep in mind where the opponents are, even if they are behind.