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When RB Salzburg participates in the Champions League for the first time, they see their own success story. Group opponents Liverpool have striker Sadio Mané (27) and midfielder Naby Keïta (24). Both once became stars in Salzburg. And are proof that RB is one of the best bargain hunters in Europe.

In addition to Salzburg, Benfica Lisbon, AS Monaco, FC Porto and Ajax Amsterdam have been among the transfer kings of the past five years. If you count income and expenses against each other, no team achieved greater surpluses than these five. The motto of these clubs: buy cheap, sell high!

The top 20 transfer kings

But even after they have been sold, the stars still help the old clubs. Christoph Freund (42), sports director at Red Bull Salzburg, says: “Sadio Mané is a key example for us.” The winger played for the Austrian series champions from 2012 to 2014, first moving to Southampton and then to Liverpool FC which he won the Champions League. Freund says: "We can show his path and many others again and again so that more talented players come."

Photo: Getty Images Sports / Getty Images

Those responsible for Salzburg discovered Mané at the then French third division club FC Metz and signed it for four million euros.

Top seller João Félix (19) is even a role model in two respects at Bargain King Benfica. This summer he moved to Atlético Madrid for € 126m - four years after joining from FC Porto at the age of 15. He is an example of the good scouting and fine-tuning in the youth academy.

Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

Because excellent youth work ensures high income. As in the case of João Félix, Benfica and FC Porto are fighting each other in all areas and driving each other on.
In Porto, the model tactic has been working for a long time: European champion Pepe (36) came from Marítimo Funchal in 2004 for two million, and moved to Real Madrid in 2007 for 30 million.

Now Éder Militão (21) has followed suit. He switched to Real for 50 million. A year earlier, Porto had paid São Paulo FC just 7 million. The Portugal clubs have another competitive advantage: the language. At both clubs, the scouting is very much oriented towards South America, as Brazilians speak Portuguese anyway, but native Spanish speakers also understand a lot. The Colombians Jackson Martínez (32) and James Rodríguez (28) made their first steps in Europe at FC Porto.

The stages of development at these clubs just below world class are often the most significant in a career. Salzburg boss Freund: "With us, a lot of boys have developed into men."

The recipe for success at Ajax Amsterdam is called "T.I.P.S.": technology, intelligence, personality, speed. It was invented by club legend Johan Cruyff († 68). The Champions League semi-finalist last season is increasingly looking for talent in his own country and is not bringing them to boarding schools, as is the case with other clubs, but with host families. The two record departures Matthijs de Ligt (20, for 85.5 million to Juventus Turin) and Frenkie de Jong (22, for 75 million to FC Barcelona) came to Ajax at the age of nine and 18 respectively.

In the meantime, AS Monaco was even a buyer for the bargain clubs in the list. Thanks to Russian oligarch Dimitri Ribolowlew (52), stars like James and Bernardo Silva (25) moved here before they went to Real or Manchester City for even more money.

But the club did its best business thanks to a clear scouting plan. Six employees were looking for talent in the greater Paris area. There they found Kylian Mbappé (20), brought him to her home at 14 - loaned him out in 2017 for 45 million and sold him to PSG in 2018 for 135 million euros. So back to Paris. Crazy. But transfer policy can hardly be smarter

SL Benfica fans search for talent for free

What is unique about the young talent concept?

Benfica hardly pays attention to physical data such as size or speed. Technology and decision making are more important. In a 360-degree simulator, passes are trained by fellow players with the help of holograms. Almost all youth coaches have been with the club for more than ten years.

In which countries and regions are you particularly looking for?

Benfica searches in the greater Lisbon area, but also throughout Portugal. Due to the historical connection, there is a focus on South America and especially Brazil as well as the Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa.

How many scouts does Benfica have?

Around 200 scouts are looking for talent. The majority are freelance freelance workers. Some work without pay because they are fans. Eight permanent scouts work for the professional department.

From what age are players wanted?

The first players are observed at the age of six.

At what age are talents required?

Nationally at any age up to 15. In Europe from 15 years, worldwide from 17.

How much does the club spend on the youngsters each year?

The academy costs Benfica ten million euros. This year the campus was renovated and expanded.

AS Monaco - Best Talent Promotion in France

What is unique about the young talent concept?

The most promising talents always play a year higher. Due to the greater demands on the elderly, they should develop faster. Talents who are too good for the youngsters and would sit on the bench with the professionals are loaned to the Belgian partner club Cercle Bruges.

In which countries and regions is particularly sought?

The association searches worldwide. The Monegasque specializes in France and the rest of Europe.

How many scouts does Monaco have?

A total of ten scouts work for Monaco. In the meantime there were six in Paris alone. There they discovered Kylian Mbappé at the age of 14.

From what age are players wanted?

There is no age limit. If the player fits into the profile, an attempt is made to sign him.

At what age are talents required?

Indefinite.

How much does the club spend on the youngsters each year?

The Monegasque invest eight million euros annually in their academy. The youth training center is the best in France. Become a player
Instructed on site by a whole staff of teachers.

Ajax Amsterdam - Six weeks of trial training, accommodation with host families

What is unique about the young talent concept?

At Ajax everything runs according to the T.I.P.S. concept. The letters stand for technology, intelligence, personality and speed. The players are trained according to these categories. The young people live with host families in Amsterdam, not in the boarding school.

In which countries and regions is particularly sought?

In addition to the greater Amsterdam area, Denmark and Sweden are very popular.

How many scouts does Ajax have?

Eight professional scouts are looking for reinforcements, four of them abroad. Almost 100 scouts work among the youngsters, eight of them full-time. Around one in ten of them conduct research outside the country.

From what age are players wanted?

The youngest additions are observed at the age of seven in a 50-kilometer circle around the city. Scouts also go to schools.

At what age are talents required?

No special stipulation, before the commitment there is still a six-week trial training session.

How much does the club spend on the youngsters each year?

6 million euros.

FC Porto - Four-year-olds should be bound

What is unique about the young talent concept?

The training also focuses on combative performance. You have to consciously let some talents move to rival Benfica because you consider their offers for U-13 or U-14 players to be perverse.

In which countries and regions are you particularly looking for?

Besides Northern Portugal all over the country. Abroad, the focus is on South America and Brazil and on the ex-colonies in Africa.

How many scouts does Porto have?

The club's network has a total of 250 scouts, only a fraction of whom work full-time.

From what age are players wanted?

With the education and sports project "Dragon Force", four-year-olds should already come to the club.

At what age are talents required?

The association does not commit itself here.

How much does the club spend on the youngsters each year?

Estimated five million euros. At the end of 2019, the club will start building a new academy.

Red Bull Salzburg - Mané is Salzburg's flagship project

What is unique about the young talent concept?

Talents are always shown the path that stars like Sadio Mané later took. Although the league is rather second rate, Salzburg is on a different level thanks to its infrastructure, concept and financial resources. This is how top talent comes too.

In which countries and regions are you particularly looking for?

Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.

How many scouts does Salzburg have?

Ten full-time scouts and a network of freelancers are currently working for the Austrian series master.

From what age are players wanted?

The club is looking for ages 17 to 20.

At what age are talents required?

From 17 years.

How much does the club spend on the youngsters each year?

The club invests an estimated nine million euros in the next generation every year. The club stands for mega bargains! Later top performers such as Stefan Lainer (200,000 euros) Naby Keïta (1.5 million) or Amadou Haidara (free transfer) cost little or nothing. Salzburg spent only 56.44 million euros in the past five years.