The U-21 national coach in an interview with kicker
Antonio Di Salvo took over from Stefan Kuntz as U-21 national coach in September and has already suffered a major setback in the 4-0 defeat to Poland. In an interview with kicker, however, Di Salvo is most concerned about the general quality problems in Germany’s youth system.
“In my first time as co-coach of the U 21s, I watched Bundesliga and sometimes Champions League games to sift through them,” Di Salvo looks back in the interview to the time after the joint start with Kuntz in September 2016: “There were seasoned Bundesliga players who didn’t make it into the U 21s because there were better ones.”
In the meantime, the situation has changed. “For the current cycle and the last one, I scouted a lot in the second division. But in some cases our boys did not play at all. That is an extremely dangerous tendency,” the 42-year-old puts his finger in a wound that has been known for some time. Even the U21 team, the oldest junior team in the country, which was so successful when it won the European Championship titles in 2017 and 2021 and reached the final in 2019, is now a symbol of the structural problems in German youth football.
“We lack the breadth of players who get practice in the Bundesliga”
One big factor: the limited amount of time home-grown talents spend at their clubs. “In the 2000 and 2001 age groups, the deployment times of foreign players in the Bundesliga are twice as high as those of German players. That is extreme. In the other leagues, the playing minutes of domestic U-21 players are three or four times as high. We lack the breadth of players who get practice in the Bundesliga,” Di Salvo calculates and knows which countries have a clear advantage in this respect: “Our pool of candidates is much smaller than that of the French or the English. Some of them play for us in the Bundesliga, but many others play in the domestic leagues.
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