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By ESPN Staff
Dec 19, 2006

Benitez blasts at 'failing' Academy system

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez claims the Academy system is failing English football.

Despite homegrown players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher providing the backbone of the Liverpool team, the Spanish boss has become more reliant on looking abroad for the best young players.

Benitez said: 'You need to improve the English academy system, because it's not the best. You can't just have players playing 18 games in a year. They need competitive matches. The system at the moment simply is not working.

'I coached the Real Madrid B side in the Second Division, with youngsters coming up against 30-year-olds and 35-year-olds.

'Rooney, at 16, can't be playing in the academy leagues. That's crazy. The academy system is not working, and that is worrying. There will be long-term effects - just look at the last few years.'

Benitez admits he has been trying to emulate Arsene Wenger's policy of bringing some of the best young players in the world to Arsenal - but on a less expensive scale.

Wenger famously paid Southampton £5million for Theo Walcott, who was just 16 when he joined the Gunners in January, while Brazilian teenager Denilson cost £3.4million from Sao Paulo in August.

Benitez's latest import was Argentina Under-20 international Emiliano Insua from Boca Juniors in November for a fee in the region of £1million.

He added: 'When Arsene Wenger talks about quality and not nationality, I agree with him. If you can find a balance between local players and foreign players, you must, but the most important thing is to be winning.

'We know there is a big difference with Arsenal, who can pay millions for Denilson and also spend big on Walcott and (Abou) Diaby. We are trying to do the same things on a lot less money, so we have to work twice as hard.'