AZ Alkmaar and its revolution in talent acquisition: "The cognitive factor is crucial"
We analyze the success of the Dutch team that swept and won the Youth League
Some football fans may have been surprised by the success of AZ Alkamaar in the Youth League , after sweeping Barcelona (0-3), Real Madrid (0-4) and Hadjuk Split, in the final, (0-5) . But his attractive and effective football has an explanation and that victory has not been the result of chance.
To understand it, we contacted Eric Castien, founder of BrainsFirst, a company that works with some football clubs to evaluate the brain potential of young talents.
"We measure the basic components of game intelligence at the brain level. For example, how a player absorbs information, how quickly this information is processed, how decisions are made and how actions are controlled. We make football intelligence be visible and comparable. It is about estimating potential . This information provides clubs with crucial predictive performance data so they can make better talent decisions about who to hire in the academy and first team. It is mainly about identifying talents," he says.
AZ was clear about this when a few years ago it was immersed in some major economic problems , which forced it to think of other ways to be able to compete in the Netherlands with giants such as Ajax , Feyenoord and PSV , and also do so in Europe. "They had to be smarter than the competition in making decisions. The talent academy had to transform from a cost center to a source of income . They wanted to exchange opinions for facts. AZ was looking for objective data to better respond to this asks: 'What talent pool does it really make sense to go and continue investing in?'” explains Castien.
And boy did they do it. This investment is what has allowed him to produce a series of talents such as Ernest Poku (8 goals), Goes, Fedde De Jong and Meerdink, who was the top scorer in the Youth League with 9 goals . Some of them have already made the jump to the first team, which rubs its hands with all the talents under its charge. "Starting at 12 years old, tests are administered to boys and girls. Starting at 15.5 years old, the data has predictive value. If a player scores high at a young age, this is a reason to be optimistic about future potential."