Cologne - Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, Timo Hildebrand, Timo Werner - the list of names to have emerged from the VfB Stuttgart youth ranks includes some illustrious names.
First team always in sight
Having won three Bundesliga titles and three DFB Cups, the southwest club are not only one of Germany's most successful clubs in terms of . They also boast one of the best records for producing and nurturing home-grown talent, and that is set to continue following the opening of their brand new, state-of-the-art youth academy.
Having won ten trophies at U-19 level and five with their U-17 team, Stuttgart are quite rightly regarded as a club with one of the best records for unearthing young talent. The new academy complex is a 2,700m² facility accommodating teams between U-11 and U-19 level, positioned next to the club offices and the Mercedes-Benz Arena to remind youngsters of the final step in their journey towards becoming a professional at VfB.
The building has a brand new artificial pitch and sprint track, and the older the age group, the closer the changing room is to the stadium, reinforcing the idea of that final leap: reaching the first team. The walls are also decorated with photos of former youth team players that have gone on to represent the club's first team, with space left for current and future academy participants to add their names to that illustrious list.
Constant development of a coaching concept
The success of the Bundesliga and the German national team in recent seasons has been synonymous with the increased number of young German players forcing their way into Bundesliga first teams. With so many clubs investing in youth, the priority for VfB is to ensure their way of developing young talent remains an attractive and unique one.
"Around five per cent of players that make the leap to a professional club in Germany come through the ranks at Stuttgart," says VfB director Stefan Heim proudly. "[But] clubs are doing so much for their young players these days, so you have to constantly develop your own concept of coaching. We want to show young kids the benefit of committing their education to Stuttgart because here you have the biggest chance of making it as a professional."
In the Swabians' last game - a goalless draw with SC Paderborn on Matchday 17 - no fewer than five Stuttgart youth team graduates started for Huub Stevens' side: Sven Ulreich, Timo Baumgartl, Christian Gentner, Daniel Didavi and Werner. That does not look like changing anytime soon. "We're not reinventing the wheel," continues Heim. "We're just trying to do things that bit better."