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Schalke’s youth academy forges World Champions

Knappenschmiede – it’s not just the name of Schalke’s youth academy; it is a seal of quality in German football. It is there that talents are moulded, prepared for professional football and forged into Schalke players.

World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes. Copyright: firo sportphoto

In Benedikt Höwedes, Julian Draxler, Manuel Neuer and Mesut Özil, four products of the Knappenschmiede became 2014 World Cup winners with the Germany national team in Brazil. There has also been great success at club level: During the Royal Blues’ 5-0 win against MSV Duisburg in the final of the 2010/11 DFB Cup, four players were on the pitch that came through FC Schalke 04’s youth academy. They were Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Joel Matip and Julian Draxler.

In the 2013/14 campaign, as many as eight home-grown Schalke talents started the Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid (Ralf Fährmann, Tim Hoogland, Benedikt Höwedes, Sead Kolasinac, Kaan Ayhan, Joel Matip, Max Meyer and Julian Draxler).

Through its optimal youth development, the Knappenschmiede’s aim is for its youth talents to continuously make the step into the club’s first-team squad.

The aim is to develop each player depending on age and performance. Therefore, there is a training philosophy, which ensures that the exercises follow on from one another and that as many players as possible develop all the necessary skills in order to make the step up to the next age group at the end of the season. In order to provide an all-round education, we cooperate with various types of schools and also have a close collaboration with Berger Feld Comprehensive, one of the DFB’s elite football schools, which is close to the VELTINS-Arena.

UEFA Youth League: U19 vs. FC Barcelona. Copyright: FC Schalke 04

In order to optimally develop the youth talents’ skills based on age and performance, and to sensibly prepare them for first-team football, the Knappenschmiede underwent a reshuffle for the 2011/12 season. The youth department is now broken down into two sections: U9s to U15s and U16s to U23s. The transition to the U16s marks the start of competitive sport. The Knappenschmiede rely on coaches with the highest possible qualifications and experts or specialised coaches in every department.

In the U16s to U23s section alone, the youth talents are trained by five fully qualified football coaches and four DFB ‘A’ licence holders. On top of that, each team also plays in the highest possible league.