Bayern Munich turned heads in the summer 2022 transfer window by dipping into France’s Ligue 1 talent pool and shelling out around €30m for seventeen-year-old Rennes talent Mathys Tel. It was a hefty sum to throw on the ledger for a player who was still making his way through the youth ranks at club level, but it may have only been a sign of things to come.
Real Madrid have now blasted the doors off the top of the market with this week’s €72m deal for Palmeiras striker Endrick, who is still just sixteen — he wouldn’t be able to move to the La Liga club until he turns eighteen. The sum meets the Brazilian club’s €60m release clause plus change and calls to mind the Spanish giants’ acquisition of Vinicius Junior several years earlier, though at a lower price.
These aren’t the only big bets on next-gen wonderkids in recent years, either. Borussia Dortmund swooped Birmingham City in the Sky Bet Championship for Jude Bellingham for some €30m, and that’s paid off handsomely — with the English international poised to land BVB a nine-figure sum.
It’s increasingly harder for a young phenom to slip under the radar now without identification from at least one of football’s heavyweights. When a scouting team zeroes in on a talent they belive is a rising star, it might mean either opening the pursestrings — or watching them fulfill their potential elsewhere.
It begs several questions. Are clubs like Real Madrid banking on world superstar return out of investments like these, or are they simply that deep-pocketed? Will more spend-thrift clubs like Bayern be able to navigate these waters? — and were the comparatively modest investments in Ryan Gravenberch and Mathys Tel part of sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic’s bid to get the next-gen prospects in before the prices exploded?