The intensity of the battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona to find the very best youngsters and nurture them in their academies can never be underestimated.
And for those of us who thought that the depths that Barcelona had sunk to with the importation of children from outside the EU without their parents, in violation of Fifa rules, was about as low as it could get, have come in for a shock.
For it turns out that both Spanish giants are involved in projects which aim to produce the very best footballers, to order.
Whether what we are seeing are two strands of the same project or two different initiatives is a matter for debate, but both have emerged at the same time, and both are outrageous. But one is far more sinister than the other.
The first project centres around the Universidad de Quia Antio Andes and focussed on a database originating in the Centre for Football Research and Development in Loughborough. This database recorded, among many other things, what happened to Premier League players after they retired from playing.
It was this database that revealed that around 40% of these players were bankrupt within five years of retirement – a fact that became central to what happened thereafter.
The CFRD began to track these players and found many were in a fairly sorry state, often prayed on by loan sharks and the like, as they were unable to adjust to a life of poverty following a life of luxury. Indeed it is often assumed that ex-players are paid decent sums by the media for interviews etc, but this is rarely the case – the media suggesting that exposure through their outlets is good publicity for the player and can lead to a “book deal” or “personality status” (something which always goes undefined).
But it was a separate and much more secretive body – Instituto de Investigación Materno – that was then tasked with finding the mothers of these players. That they too would have fallen on hard times is not surprising, since during the years of high earnings, most players do indeed support their families, buying their parents a new house and offering them a lavish lifestyle.
In the families’ case also, adjustment back to the earlier years of very modest earnings indeed is tough, and the humiliation that results from house repossession means that such family groups often move away, shunned by those who they lived near in the years of wealth, and despised by those with whom they grew up, in years of poverty.
It was as that point that the University’s Departamento del Estudio de la Fertilidad was brought in. Players were paid as sperm donors and women from other families in the same country, and who had given birth to at least one other player of note were artificially inseminated, in the hope that the resultant child would become a top player.
It was after this project had been underway for a couple of years that the second initiative began to emerge – an approach which took matters onto a whole new level. This approach by examining the DNA of footballers, seeking our any genetic sequences that footballers of the high calibre might have in common, but which were uncommon in the general population.
This programme was carried out by the Departamento de investigación en ácido desoxirribonucleico in the Universidad de Ciertas Cosas, Bolivia.
Given the high level of medical supervision that footballers are under it was not difficult to obtain the genetic data from medical staff in clubs in Italy, Spain, Germany and England – and it is interesting that the reason for the “removal” of the material was once again frustration among some highly qualified medics at the paucity of their salaries compared with what were considered to be insanely large sums paid to the players.
Once the genetic database was started so the buyers appeared, as clubs involved in the most intense of rivalry sought to out do each other by utilising the genetic database.
The original plan, it seems was to find the genetic code of the quality player – a project that was hidden under the Latin title of Geneticae qualitas ludio ludius but this being a world in which criminal gangs run or have influence over a large amount of footballing activity, it was not long before some wanted to go further.
The ultimate variation on the programme came with an idea hatched in Peru in which the children created from the first programme, then had their genetic database artificially manipulated so that it incorporated the code found in top players.
It is not clear how many, if any, youngsters from the two research programmes Real Madrid and Barcelona (or indeed any other clubs) have taken into their youth divisions, but there is clearly interest.
Indeed, perhaps most frighteningly, there is interest in England too, following the reports made this week which claimed that only one in every 200 youngsters that trains with a Premier League club’s youth section aged nine, then plays for that club’s first team.
It took Untold to point out the statistical errors in this analysis, but the fact that the error strewn report made the national press shows just how desperate clubs are to discover ever more effective routes to finding and nurturing young talent.
1 April 2015.
Anniversary of the day: 1 April 1998: Arsène Wenger won Premier Manager of the Month award, the first Arsenal manager ever to do so since it was set up in August 1993. Alan Ball won it when with Man C in 1995 and George Graham with Leeds in 1997