Manchester United may have finished only sixth in the table last season but they comfortably retained their position as the leading developers of Premier League talent.
Twenty players who finished their youth-team football with United featured in the 2018/19 top flight, matching the previous term’s tally.
They combined to play over 27,000 minutes, keeping United nearly 10,000 minutes clear of nearest challengers Tottenham.
Elsewhere, Southampton’s graduates emerged to take third place in the rankings and Portuguese clubs were also on the rise.
No change at the top
For the third season in a row, PA has recorded which academy every Premier League player graduated from and tallied up the numbers – for those who moved clubs as a youth player, the last academy they played in is the one credited.
United have been top all three years and while their graduates’ playing time has dropped each season – from 44,055 in the first year to 32,157 in 2017/18 and 27,395 in the latest study, they remain comfortably clear of the pack.
Just over a third of their total came from members of their own squad, led by Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, while Joshua King, Michael Keane and Craig Cathcart played over 3,000 minutes for Bournemouth, Everton and Watford respectively and Burnley got over 4,400 minutes from Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley and Robbie Brady.
Tottenham’s tally dropped from 22,314 to 17,903, meaning they took just 351 minutes out of United’s lead which now stands at 9,492 minutes.
Sixteen Southampton academy products played in last season’s top flight, including nine in their own team – though United full-back Luke Shaw and Fulham’s Calum Chambers made the biggest contributions to their combined 15,964 minutes.
That lifted Saints six places to third, narrowly ahead of Chelsea with Manchester City completing the top five.
Brooks adds to Blades’ proud record
Sheffield United have been consistent over-achievers in the study, placing eighth in 2016/17 while finishing as League One champions and then fifth as a Championship club the following year.
The same six players – Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Phil Jagielka, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Matt Lowton and Kyle Naughton – accounted for those two impressive finishes, but Naughton’s relegation with Swansea and Jagielka’s reduced playing time at Everton raised doubts this time around.
Enter David Brooks. The Wales midfielder signed for Bournemouth last summer and became an integral part of their Premier League plans, playing 2,400 minutes and in the process helping keep the Blades almost 300 minutes ahead of seventh-placed Liverpool.
With Chris Wilder’s side having secured promotion for the new season – and then re-signed Jagielka – they could place even higher in 12 months’ time.
Special mention this year should also go to Coventry, who jumped 113 places to reach the top 20 after James Maddison and Cyrus Christie, with Leicester and Fulham respectively, joined Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson as top-flight regulars.
In the previous years of the study, Dutch sides Ajax and Feyenoord have been the best-represented sides from outside England but last season saw a shift to Portugal – thanks largely to promoted Wolves and their link-up with agent Jorge Mendes.
Benfica and Sporting Lisbon sandwiched ninth-placed West Ham to round out the top 10 in the study – the only 10 teams to crack the five-figure barrier, with Sporting at 10,127 minutes to 11th-placed Barcelona’s 9,712. Ajax followed in 12th, with Feyenoord 18th.
Wolves pair Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro – along with Everton’s Andre Gomes – supplemented the efforts of fellow Benfica graduates Ederson and Bernardo Silva at Man City, while Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho are products of Sporting’s academy.
McNeil ploughs a lone furrow
That reliance on imports sees Wolves feature among the lower-ranked Premier League clubs when it comes to developing talent – though Burnley trail the pack.
Six top-flight clubs saw their graduates play less than 4,000 Premier League minutes last term, with the Clarets out on their own with just 1,683 – all from their winger Dwight McNeil.
Bournemouth got 3,375 minutes from five players and Newcastle 3,492 from four to also rank below Wolves, whose 3,531 minutes were shared between in-house midfield prospect Morgan Gibbs-White, Cardiff winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Cardiff themselves produced only two of last season’s Premier League players, their own Joe Ralls and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, now at Juventus, combining for 3,558 minutes. Huddersfield’s total of 3,771 came entirely from their own players led by Phillip Billing and Tommy Smith.
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Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne feels a complete break from football over the summer has given him the perfect lift for the new campaign.
The Belgium international played only a bit-part in City’s outstanding treble-winning 2018/19 season due to a series of injuries.
It now seems those problems could be behind the 28-year-old after his standout performances on City’s pre-season tour of Asia over the past fortnight.
Prior to the trip De Bruyne enjoyed a couple of holidays with his family, time away he felt was much needed after his previous two seasons ran into each other because of the 2018 World Cup.
De Bruyne said: “I did nothing for three weeks. I just wanted to be away.
“I run a lot with the kids anyway, so I burn a lot of energy, but I just wanted to be away from football. I had been playing for two years straight. I just wanted to enjoy myself a little bit. I did some trips with family and friends.
“Physically you can be OK but I think it is more mentally. It is tough to go two years straight for everybody and not have a proper break. That is what happened the last two years.
“Now I felt for myself that is was necessary to just slow it down a little bit and go again in pre-season. I knew I would have enough time now to prepare myself for the season, so that’s what I decided to do.”
Despite his reduced role last season – most notably starting only 11 Premier League games – De Bruyne insists he did not feel left out of the team’s successes.
He said: “I don’t have that feeling. I played half of the games, so I was there. Obviously I wanted to play more but I am very happy.
“If I am not there or am there, I am on the team to win. That is why I play for this team but in the end I hope to get less injuries and play a little bit more, obviously.”
City have now returned home having concluded their tour with victory over sister club Yokohama F Marinos on Saturday, a game in which De Bruyne scored and set up another.
They begin their season against Liverpool in the Community Shield next Sunday.
Great game to end the pre season. Thank you japan.— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) July 27, 2019
You were great. Time to go home now and see the family pic.twitter.com/xF75SkXAFZ
De Bruyne knows expectations on City will be high this term having collected five major trophies in the past two years.
He said: “We don’t need to beat the last two seasons – maybe we can win this season with 85 points.
“It is not about improving, it is about staying consistent, trying to be there every game, trying to win every game. It is not always about doing better, because how can you do better sometimes?
“To win every year what we won the last two years is going to be pretty difficult but it is good to be there. We are always competing in every trophy. We take it seriously.”
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Today’s edition features potential signings for Inter Milan, Manchester United and PSG.
RUMOUR: Manchester United -> £75million -> Inter Milan
Romelu Lukaku has dropped a massive hint that he is set to leave Manchester United, according to Manchester Evening News. The Belgian international posted a picture on his Twitter account alongside his agent Federico Pastorello with the caption “Soon to be continued”.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: With Lukaku very much out of favour at Old Trafford, a move to the Serie A would be an ideal change for a player who looks low on confidence. And with Mauro Icardi out of Antonio Conte’s plans at the San Siro, Lukaku would be the ideal marquee signing.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Juventus are also monitoring Lukaku’s situation and could join the race for his signature. If a deal is on the table from the Turin side, the 26-year-old may opt to sign with them instead, because of the lure to win trophies and playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
RUMOUR: Sporting Lisbon -> €70m -> Manchester United
Manchester United are very close to signing Sporting Lisbon star Bruno Fernandes, according to Sport.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has targeted the 24-year-old to strengthen his midfield, especially with Paul Pogba looking intent on a move away from Old Trafford. Fernandes is believed to have already agreed personal terms with the Red Devils, but Sporting are continuing to hold out for a fee closer to €70m before anything is confirmed.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Only something drastic breaking down at the last minute can see this deal not getting over the line.
RUMOUR: Everton -> €31m -> PSG
Everton boss Marco Silva has insisted that club have not reached an agreement with PSG for midfielder Idrisse Gueya, according to the Liverpool Echo.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: The French giants have been chasing the Senegal international since the January transfer window and are increasingly confident they will get their man, with Gueye set to undergo a medical as early as next week.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Although Silva is primed to losing Gueye, PSG are unlikely to offer much more than €31 million for a 30-year-old. And Everton aren’t going to let him go on the cheap.