German Bundesliga
German Bundesliga

The German Bundesliga is likely to follow the examples of Spain, England, Italy, and France lowering the age for 16 years to be professional footballers.

By the end of March, the 36 professional clubs are expected to approve plans to change the rules of the Deutsche Futball Liga (DFL). So far, only players having reached the age of 18 or individual members of the under-19 squads are allowed to sign contracts as professionals.

Business24

The German leagues hope to catch up of what is seen as a “competitive disadvantage.” Other European leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 for several years allow youngsters to perform on a professional level.

Ansu Fati made his debut for the FC Barcelona at the age of 16 and became the league’s youngest goalscorer at the age of 16 years and 304 days. After his appearance, his exit clause was put up to 170 million euros.

In Fulham, Harvey Elliot slipped into the first team shortly after his 16th birthday.

The changes could soon open doors for Dortmund talent Youssoufa Moukoko, turning 16 in November. The Cameroon rooted forward is German football’s newest Wunderkind, having scored the record number of 50 season goals in the under-17 league and 26 in 21 games for the under-19 squad of the Blacks and Yellows.

Most of the Bundesliga’s sports directors support the plans despite demands to cautiously treat youngsters and protect them from too much pressure and expectations.

Dortmund’s youth coordinator Lars Ricken complained about a significant disadvantage compared to other top European leagues. “We have several examples of youngsters having joined other leagues as they got the chance to play in the first teams,” the 1997 Champions League winner stressed.

Moenchengladbach’s managing director Max Eberl spoke about a more advanced development of today’s 16-year old. “They get well prepared for professional football these days. Looking at their general development, we can say they are on a much better level,” Eberl said.

“If they have reached a certain level, we must consider that,” the former midfielder added.

The German association’s supervision director for national teams, Joti Chatzialexiou called the changes “acceptable in some cases.” The association official said the general approach must be to allow a wide range of development-time, “but looking at examples in Europe, it can be helpful to do that step at an earlier age.”

Changing the current rules, German football needs to obey “working law regulations” for under 18-year-olds. Youngsters need the approval of their parents (legal guardian) and permission to “work” after 8 or 10 o’clock for late evening games.

While the DFL can count on the majority of the clubs following the initiative, Leipzig’s coach Julian Nagelsmann is opposing the plans.

“I can’t see a great advantage for talents turning up in the Bundesliga at the age of 16,” the 32-year-old commented, adding: “They will be exposed to more pressure and medial awareness.”

Meanwhile, the Austrian league is mentioned as an example to follow. Recently a young footballer made his debut at the age of 15 and 156 days. “We can’t tolerate strict borders as German football has to catch up when it comes to young talents playing on the highest level,” former Bayern Munich professional Manfred Schwabl said. Enditem

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