The most profitable club academies in the world - ranked

Published on 13 January 2024 at 16:00

Here we explore the five teams who have championed selling their homegrown talents and arguably have the most successful academies in world football. While, some clubs are renowned for poaching wonderkids and buying their silverware some teams have perfected the art of utilising their academies and then selling these assets at high fees. Meanwhile, certain clubs ... Chelsea just disregard all the brimming talent in their academy, sell them instantly and then attempt to bring them back to the club when they've become a superstar paying an eye-watering fee. You only have to look at the story of Romelu Lukaku and the back page of any newspapers linking Chelsea to a former stars such as the likes of Jeremie Boga, Tammy Abraham or Fikayo Tomori.


1. SL Benfica (Benfica Campus- £444m

The Super Eagles have boasted one of the most prestigious academies for years; nearly every football behemoth from Manchester City to Paris Saint Germain has a star traced back to Benfica. The double European Champions have become a conveyor belt for predominantly Portuguese talents from Renato Sanches in 2015 to Joao Felix in 2016. Their young starlets are never with the reigning Portuguese Primera champions for long, after a season of promise a European vulture has swooped in and snatched them. But, this is how Benfica operate they always have a replacement because their academy is so strong.

Most Expensive Academy Sale: Joao Felix - £113m to Atletico Madrid (2019)

The then 18 year old in his break-out season for Os Encarnados scored 20 goals in all competitions as Benfica won a 37th Primera title and reached the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League. In his solitary season in Lisbon he collected the Golden Boy and Primera Liga Young Player of the Season award, as well as breaking the record for the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Most Expensive Academy Sale 2023-24: Goncalo Ramos - £68m to Paris Saint Germain (2023)

The successor to Darwin Nunez who joined Liverpool in an £85m deal in 2022, the 22 year old scored 22 goals in 40 appearances for Benfica last season and caught the eye of the world with his hat-trick in the Round.16 of the World Cup for Portugal against Switzerland. 


2. Ajax (Ajax Youth Academy- £323m

The climax of Ajax's academy was that fairy-tale journey in the Champions League in 2019, which ended in heartbreak against Tottenham in the semi-final second leg. The four time European cup winners started seven academy graduates including Frenkie De Jong, Donny Van De Beek and Mattijas De Ligt in that game and showcased to the world just how talented their youth is. They despatched reigning champions Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate and beat Juventus on their route to reach the final. They have sold the most academy graduates on this list (36) but, their distinct philosophy and seamless transition between the academy and first team has always meant they've been a dominant force in the Eredivisie and Europe.

Most Expensive Academy Sale: Frenkie De Jong - £70m to Barcelona (2019)

The 26 year old was ever-present in a three man Ajax midfield and the Dutchman developed into one of the best midfielders with the ball at his feet, helping Ajax secure a first domestic double since 2001 and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997. His move to Barcelona signalled the ideal time in his fletching career to make the next step and has since won La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and Super Cup.

Most Expensive Academy Sale 2023-24: Jurien Timber - £55m to Arsenal (2023)

The promising centre-back was on the radar of a host of top teams this summer, after starring for the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup and progressing at Ajax. Unfortunatley, he suffered an ACL injury on his Premier League debut and is still sidelined.


  1. Lyon (Olympique Lyonnais Reserves & Academy) - £318m

Even though, Lyon haven't especially starred on the European stage for silverware over the past decade, barring a semi-final appearance in 2020 they are well-known for re-cooping high fees for their promising youngsters. Tanguy N'Dombele's £60m departure to Tottenham exemplifies their intelligent business strategy selling in form players who struggle and fade away elsewhere. In recent years their presence in the Champions League group stage has attracted interest to their players such as Coretin Tolisso, Bradley Barcola and Alexandre Lacazette. This season they're model of selling their best players looks to have gone wrong with Lyon locked in a relegation battle after just four wins from 17 league games. 


Most Expensive Academy Sale: Tanguy N'Dombele - £60m to Tottenham (2019)

The 27 year old was highlighted in a impressive display in the group stage of the Champions League against Manchester City back in 2018, and convinced Tottenham to splash out £60m for him, in the hope he would become the heir to Moussa Dembele. Instead, managerial spats and structural inconsistency at Tottenham saw him fail and shipped out on loan to Napoli and currently Galatasaray.


Most Expensive Academy Sale 2023-24: Bradley Barcola - £36m to Paris Saint Germain

The 21 year old was a deadline day export to their fierce rivals. The young winger had a break-out campaign last season contributing 13 goals and assists in Ligue 1 and starring for the U21 French national team. He's certainly a future star for the Parisian giants.


  1. Real Madrid (La Fabrica) - £313m

It feels wrong that Real Madrid sit on this list given their financial power and prestige. Los Blancos surprisingly have been very good at selling their youth players probably because they've had such a strong starting 11 in recent years that's meant most of their academy stars have become disposable. The likes of Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Reguilon and Marcos Llorente have all recouped sizeable fees for the La Liga giants.


Most Expensive Academy Sale: Achraf Hakimi - £35m to Inter Milan

After a tremendous campaign on loan at Borussia Dortmund, many believed the Moroccan full-back would be re-integrated into the Real Madrid team but instead he was sold to Inter and lifted the Scudetto. He's now at PSG continuing to win silverware and has become one of the best right-backs in the game.


Most Expensive Academy Sale 2023-24: Marco Asensio - Free to Paris Saint Germain

This is not the most expensive, but its the biggest transfer as Marco Asensio was hailed at Real Madrid when he first broke onto the scene as a youngster. Injuries tainted his time at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he could find success at PSG under the stewardship of Luis Enrique.

  1. Chelsea (Chelsea FC Development and Academy) - £300m


Even though Chelsea have become one of the most disliked clubs under the hierarchy of Todd Boehly, for their scatter-gun transfer strategy and hap hazardous disregard for FFP, they've always had one of the best academies in England. Connor Gallagher, Levi Colwill and Reece James show just how strong their youth system is given the exodus of academy players that have left the club including the bizarre divorce to Mason Mount over the summer, one of Chelsea's poster boy academy stars. The fundamental problem they've always had is knowing what they've got, only in the final few years of Roman Abramovich's era was there a recognition of young homegrown players and it seems to have been completely erased under Boehly.


Most Expensive Academy Sale: Mason Mount - £60m to Manchester United (2023)

The former Chelsea captain was idolised by fans as the full embodiment of what the club should represent. However, last season his form declined and there appeared to be a deterioration in the relationship between him and the club. Selling him to rivals Manchester United seems a very strange strategy.


Written by Lewis Eadie

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