Valencia's academy is a class apart with Musah the latest to step up

David Silva and Ferran Torres are graduates and English starlet Yunus Musah is the latest to make the grade… Valencia’s academy is a class apart and is driving Javi Gracia’s side to new heights ahead of Real Madrid visit

  • Valencia turned to their academy stars to transform the first team’s fortunes
  • Yunus Musah became the youngest Englishman to score in LaLiga history 
  • His goal vs Getafe came as no surprise to those behind the scenes at Valencia 
  • Impact of Covid-19 pandemic has seen a growing reliance on academy players 

When starry-eyed youngsters step through the door of Valencia’s academy in Paterna, the message is clear: talent alone is not enough to make it. 

‘We educate people, we train footballers,’ reads the slogan splashed across the wall. 

The 180,000 square-metres complex, situated 10km north of the Mestalla stadium, is as much about academic studies as it is football training. The result? One of the finest production lines in European football.

Yunus Musah has broken into Valencia’s first XI after graduating from their academy

David Silva (L) and Ferran Torres (R) both came through Valencia’s youth system

Next to the ‘Educamos personas, formamos futbolistas‘ slogan sits imagery of players who graduated to the first team and beyond to the international stage with Spain.

Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, David Silva, formerly of Manchester City, and summer arrival at City, Ferran Torres, have all taken the now well-trodden path that goes through Paterna.

The financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic brought into focus the immense value of the club’s academy.

Established first team players were sold to help balance the books – Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin went to Villarreal, Rodrigo Moreno moved to Leeds and Torres joined City – and boss Javi Gracia arrived with a jigsaw that needed building from scratch. 

Valencia have a strong history of developing young talent and have put faith in them this term

Lee Kang-in is one of several stars to have been promoted to Valencia’s senior side


GK: Jaume Domènech (Academy)

RB: Thierry Correia (Signed from Sporting Lisbon in 2019)

CB: Gabriel (Signed from Arsenal in 2017)

CB: Hugo Guillamón (Academy) 

LB: José Luis Gayà (Academy)

RM: Yunus Musah (Academy)

CM: Carlos Soler (Academy)

CM: Daniel Wass (Signed from Celta Vigo in 2018) 

ST: Lee Kang-in (Academy)

ST: Maxi Gomez (Signed from Celta in 2019)

Gracia and his players take on defending champions Real Madrid at the Mestalla on Sunday in a game that will have been made on the pitches in Paterna for the home side.

Six of the starting XI in last week’s 2-2 draw with Getafe were trained in the academy prior to going into the first team – Jaume Domènech, Hugo Guillamón, José Luis Gayà, Musah, Carlos Soler and Kang In. Few clubs in Europe stack up quite like Valencia when it comes to trusting young players.

For Gracia, age is just a number. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. 

‘The talent that exists in the team is vital, it is not so decisive to see how old the player is,’ he explains. 

‘If there are young and good players, logically they will have their place. 

‘There are already young players in the squad showing that they have that level to compete to the maximum for the team. 

‘It is a question of continuing to consolidate these youngsters, giving the space to those who have more skill and experience and of continuing to give opportunities to all these young people who are so well prepared.’   

The Paterna site houses five grass pitches, one artificial pitch, seven mini pitches for eight-a-side games and the Antonio Puchades Stadium, the home stadium of Valencia’s reserve team and its women’s team. 

It is about setting a routine, a discipline that enforces the need not to rush the process. 

Valencia boss Javi Gracia named six academy products in his starting line-up last time out

Carlos Soler, who has attracted interest from some big clubs, celebrates after scoring a goal

‘At the Academy we are looking for players who have talent, who are competitive and who are good people,’ academy director Luis Martínez said. 

‘They have to be academically responsible and understand that their education is an important part of their development. That has been taken on board by most – or all – of the VCF Academy players who are going up to the first team.

‘The fact that there are so many Academy players in the first team right now reflects a very good job done over many years’.

The CIES Football Observatory recently highlighted that Valencia’s academy programme is the fifth most productive of Europe’s top five leagues. 

The study into England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain discovered that 24 players developed in Paterna played in those leagues last season. By the end of the season that number had risen to 27. 

That ability to develop at a high clip, and with regularity, is the envy of their European rivals. It is among a myriad of reasons why Musuh made the decision to leave Arsenal. 

Joe Willock is currently finding a number of roadblocks into the Gunners’ first team and here is Musuh, still celebrating becoming the youngest Valencia player in the 21st century to score in LaLiga at 17 years old and 338 days.

Musah has been given his big breakthrough because Torres left to join Man City in the summer

Gracia will put his faith in Valencia’s youngsters again when they face Real Madrid on Sunday


David Silva – Real Sociedad

Jordi Alba – Barcelona

Isco – Real Madrid

Ferran Torres – Man City 

Juan Bernat – PSG

Raul Albiol – Villarreal

Paco Alcacer – Villarreal

He is also the youngest English player ever to net in Spain’s top flight.    

‘From the beginning everyone at Valencia CF has welcomed me very well,’ he recently told the club’s website. 

‘They had a good plan for me, helped me develop so much and I have learned so much during my time here – and I’m sure I’m going to learn so much more.   

‘I think this is a club with such a rich history. So many players have come up from the VCF Academy and, as you can see now, there’s a place for them in the first team. It gives me motivation to keep going.’

Martinez will have been forgiven if a smug grin was wiped across his face when Musah slotted in against Getafe. The academy, as it often has, did it again.

‘We are seeing Yunus do things that we saw from him with VCF Mestalla (reserve team) last season,’ he said. 

‘His sprint, his physical power etcetera… and it was only a matter of time before we saw him with the first team.’ 

Much is made of the Valencian DNA. It’s hard to teach, but I’m told, not impossible. 

Players in the academy learn about the struggles of those who went before: the Spanish Civil War, the Turia river flash flood in 1957, losing their first division spot in 1986 before coming back the year after. 

The 17-year-old winger became the youngest English player ever to net in Spain’s top flight

Many in the academy are well versed in these tragedies and disappointments with club policy targeting 90-95 per cent of academy players discovered in the city.

But the reserve team is the first point where international players are scouted and brought into the fold and that is where Musah and Kang-In have made a name for themselves.  

The global network sees bases in New York, Seattle, Houston (United States), Montreal (Canada), Naples (Italy), Athens (Greece), London (United Kingdom), Sofia (Bulgaria), Nicosia (Cyprus), Marrakech (Morocco), Shanghai (China), Osaka (Japan), Wakayama (Japan) and they will soon open another branch in Busan (South Korea). 

When Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid line-up at the Mestalla on Sunday they will see a team made in Paterna. 

While the impact of Covid-19 is keenly felt across the city, optimism has never been greater that the future is bright with Musah and Co bringing in a new era. 

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