10 “Smaller” Clubs for Youth Oriented Saves

Youth Oriented Saves and Youth Only saves are quite popular in Football Manager, and as with all Football Manager saves depending on the team you choose, your Youth save is going to be Easy (Chelsea, Barcelona, Sporting, Ajax) or Hard.

Several things affect a clubs Youth Intake:

  • The Club’s Youth Recruitment, which is how far away from the club a player could be pulled in from.
  • The Club’s Youth Facilities, which are separate training facilities for the Youth Team
  • The Club’s Academy Coaching, who are coaches you can’t hire.
  • The Club’s Country’s Youth Rating, the higher the more likely it is to generate good youth players
  • Your Head of Youth Development. There’s a bit to unpack with this. A HOYD with a high Scouting PA will better identify players with potential. The formation he favors will affect what positions he tries to recruit for, and last but not least, his personality will affect the youngsters brought in. The more “positive” a HOYD directors personality (Professional, Determined, Driven, Fairly Determined, etc) the more likely the youth players he brings in will also have a positive personality.

Some club’s have Youth Development Philosophy, that is they try and recruit the best young players they can to their Youth Academies, develop them so they are ready to make appearances for the Senior Squad before they are 21, and are then moved onto “Bigger Clubs” for profit. Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, Altinordu in Turkey, and PSV are good examples of this. Other Clubs choose to develop within, and keep the players they develop. The best example of this is Barcelona and their La Masia Academy.

Following are ten clubs (and a bonus club) that in my opinion are good challenges for a Youth Oriented Save. They aren’t from the biggest Leagues, and they may not be the “Best” teams in the league they play in, but they are all capable of winning them. Eventually. While they do not possess the best in every Youth related category, they have the capability to produce some very good youth players, making a youth save with these clubs a challenge, but not an impossible one, and there are a variety of stories to build around each one as well.


1. Lech Poznan (Polish Ekstraklasa)

Lech Poznan had had somewhat of a renaissance starting in the 2010’s, winning the League in 2010, 2015, and in 2022. They were knocked out of the Champions League this year in the First Qualifying Round by Qarabag, and look to compete for a European spot again this year. Youth wise, they possess the following in terms of Facilities and Recruitment:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

In addition, the club is financially secure, has a philosophy of wanting to sign U23 players, and is in my opinion actually helped by the Ekstraklasa League which stipulate that U22 domestic players must play 3000 minutes of match play or the club will be fines 317K Euro’s, which when you consider that winning 1st place nets you only 1.44M Euro’s can be quite the penalty. However, this is offset by a League rule that will award the top 5 clubs 127K-634K Euro’s based on U21 minutes played, and by International appearances any player on the squad makes. Can you fill all 41,620 seats in Lech’s stadium, and lead the best Youth Prospects in Poland to an Ekstraklasa Victory, and beyond?


2. Hibernian (Scottish Premiership)

Hibernian haven’t won the League since 1952, but they did win the Scottish Cup as recently as 2015. The clubs current philosophy is geared towards a Youth Oriented save, they want to sign players under the age of 21 to develop, they want to develop players within their system, and they want to maintain the quality of youth system they have, and it is a very good system. Facilities and Recruitment wise, Hibernian has:

  • Training Facilities: Excellent
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

Hibernian has three things going against it: Celtic, Rangers, and League Work Permit rules that make it very hard to sign talented foreign youth players to sign for the club. While the Leagues payout is not big, 1.19M to 3.56M Euro’s, the club’s finances are in Okay condition, and qualifying for any European competition is additional prize money for the coffers, which currently means finishing 5th or higher when the season ends. Can a Scottish Youth Movement beat the Old Firm? Play Hibernian and find out.


3. Basel (Swiss Super League)

In my opinion Basel is one of the more interesting “Bigger” clubs to try and do a Youth Oriented Save with. From a historical point of view, Basel has won the League 20 times, the last in 2017, and has finished 2nd four times in the last five years. The League itself is a top 20 League, with clubs like Grasshopper, Zurich, and St. Gallen all being very competitive. Under the hood though, things get a little bit…strange.

If you win the Swiss Super League you receive 3.69M Euro’s in prize money, which covers slightly more than half of the 6M Euro annual rent Basel is paying the city for using St. Jakob Park. I am almost positive that fee is not a typo. Despite that discrepancy, the clubs finances are in good shape, and Facilities and Recruitment wise they possess:

  • Training Facilities: Excellent
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Staying in the black financially means not only winning, but winning in European competitions as well. The question is can you do that with a team of Youth Players and fending off the likes of Zurich, Grasshoppers and others for those European places?


4. MŠK Žilina (Slovak Super Liga)

Žilina have won the Super Liga 7 times since 2000, and while the league itself may not be the biggest, the region is well known for turning out quality players. Like most leagues in a country the size of Slovakia, winning does not pay out bigly, only 115K Euro’s. That said the League itself is strong enough that finishing 3rd or higher guarantees European Football, and 4th thru 7th place participate in a round robin format in which the winner also qualifies for European Football, and while the club is OK financially speaking, any success in European competitions would be helpful. Facilities and Recruitment wise, MŠK Žilina has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

While that setup alone is good enough to guarantee Žilina will see some quality potential comes thru its doors, the one advantage the team has over its local rivals is its direct affiliation with MŠK Žilina Africa Football Club. The Ghanaian club is a direct affiliate, giving the Slovakian club an additional leg up when it comes to recruiting talent. Benson Anang is the best example of this, the Ghanaian International started for the club in Accra, then moved to Žilina in 2018 and has been a solid defender for the team since. With those facilities, the countries love of Football (over 400K players registered) and a pipeline to some potentially great Africa Talent, can you take a Youth Oriented team to the top?


5. NK Lokomotiva Zagreb

For the longest time after World War Two Lokomotiva bounced around Croatia’s lower leagues. Then in 2007, they had back to back to back promotions to the top flight of Croatian Football, the First Football League. After finishing in 2nd place in the 2012-2013 season, they have finished between 4th and 6th place in each the following seasons. Teams like Dinamo, Hadjuk Split and Osijeck have long dominated the region, even when playing as part of the Yugoslav First League, and for Lokomotiva to now be competing with them year in and out is quite the accomplishment. Additionally, Croatia’s standing in world football is such that the top 4 teams in the 10 team League qualify for European Football, so the opportunity for extra income is certainly there. The club has a policy of signing U23 players, and the League itself does not have any onerous work permit rules, other than a 6 non EU player limit, and the matchday squad having at least 6 players trained by a Croatian club. Facilities and Recruitment wise, NK Lokomotiva has:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Good
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Good

At first glance those may not look great, but when you consider that the club is financially stable, and good Youth Recruitment covers Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Italy, the quality of Youth players they are going to bring in is very high. With a good HOYD, and judicious investment, good recruits at Lokomotiva can become great young players at Lokomotiva, and you can use them to dethrone Dinamo and Hadjuk before selling them off to bigger clubs and reinvesting that money again.


6. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Israeli Premier League)

Be’er Sheva returned to the top of the Israeli Premier League in 2015, winning back back to back titles, and also became a constant presence in European competitions as well, with their 2016-17 campaign being a highlight. After beat Sheriff Tiraspol and Olympiacos, they lost to Celtic and fell to the Europa League. In the Group stage they beat Inter twice, drew with Southampton twice, and lost to Sparta Prague twice, eventually losing to Beşiktaş. All that European football comes in handy, because the payout for winning the Israeli Prem doesn’t cover the 325K a year Be’er Sheva is paying in stadium rent. What they have done with a lot of those winnings is reinvest it into the club, which has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

The club has Okay finances, and the League rules are interesting in that in order to foster playing local players, squads that register 5 or fewer players receive a payout at the end of the season. U19 players are also automatically eligible for play in all matches, which works very well with a club that wants to sign/develop young players and then sell them for a profit.


7. FCV Farul Constanţa (Romanian First League)

Romanian Football legend Gheorge Hagi founded FC Viitorul Constanța in 2009, and after spending the next three seasons in the lower leagues of Romanian Football, were promoted to the top flight. They finished 5th in 2016, qualifying for European football, and won Liga I in 2017. Hagi had set up an excellent Academy after founding the club, and many players who won the League in 2017 were graduates, in fact the teams average age of 22.2 years were the youngest champions in Europe that year. However, in 2021 Hagi and Ciprian Marica, the owner of Farul Constanța, announced that they were merging. Viittorul disappeared in the process, Faul took their spot in Liga I, the team was rebranded as FCV Farul Constanţa, and the only things left of Hagi’s original club were the grounds the team played on, and the academy and youth system, and what a system it is:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

The team is financially secure, which bodes well for them because Liga I does not pay out a lot of money, only 138K for winning the league. Additionally, Romania’s stature in the game has fallen to where the league only gets 3 European positions, so developing and selling players for profit is one way FCV Farul can stay solvent. But what if you didn’t sell them internationally, but to other clubs in Romania? Could you build the nation, and the club, and achieve Europeans success again?

8. Danubio Fútbol Club (Uruguayan Primera Division Group A)

Founded by Bulgarian brothers and named after the second longest river in Europe, Danubio has had some success in Uruguay, winning the league 4 times, but what they are known for is developing talent. In a League that also has the likes of Peñarol and Nacional in it, Danubio has developed no less than 16 players who have made at least 50 appearances with the club and/or 30 with the National team. In a 16 team division, finishing 8th or above will get you Continental Football, and while the various Copa’s may not pay as much as their European ‘Cousins’ do, and with a league rule that sets a 3 foreign player limit in the playing eleven, developing and keeping quality youth players will go a long way to the club’s financial stability. Danubio would be a great club to build a story around because not only do they have fierce rivalries with Nacional and Peñarol, and that the Clasico de los Chicos Derby with Defensor Sporting is very competitive, but the clubs priority is to sign Youth players, and to develop and maintain the best Youth System in all of Uruguay. To help them do that they have:

  • Training Facilities: Adequate
  • Youth Facilities: Average
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Much like Lokomotiva above, while Adequate and Average are not the best, investment in those areas will have immediate payoffs as Uruguay has one of the highest Reputations in the game, as well as a very good Youth rating. Can you find the talent, develop it, and dethrone Peñarol and Nacional?

9. Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Hana 1Q K League)

Baseball used to be the most popular sport in South Korea, until the 2002 World Cup, when as a Co-Host Country South Korea made it all the way to the Semi Finals before losing to Germany. Prior to that electrifying run, players such as Cha Bum-Kun had represented their country very well in Europeans competitions, but after 2002 players such as Park Ji-Sung, Ahn Jung-Hwan, Lee Young-Pyo started playing with top European teams, and today players such as Hwang Hee-Chan and Son Heung-min lead a new wave of talented South Korean players in top flight Leagues. More than a few of them started their careers at Suwon Samsung Bluewings. A Club that has had some past success, winning the domestic League 4 times, the Korean FA Cup 4 times, and the Asian Club Championship twice, Suwon has fallen off a bit since clubs like FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Hyunadai have started winning on a regular basis. That said, Suwon still has some very good facilities and coaching:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Good

Financially secure, and with South Korea having one of the higher youth rating in the game, Suwon Samsung Bluewings has a great opportunity to find and develop the next generation of great South Korean footballers. The question is, can it hold onto them to achieve domestic and Asian success, or will they leave for bigger clubs in foreign leagues?


10. Stabæk (Norwegian First Division)

Of all the clubs in this list, Stabæk has some of the best youth facilities and coaching, Norway has one of the better reputations in the game, and their Youth Rating is very good as well, having produced several world class players over the years. Despite that, due to financial difficulties in the 2010’s, the club has bounced back and forth between the top two divisions, and in 2023 they were promoted out of the 2nd tier and back into the Eliteserien, the top Tier of Norwegian Football. For the moment they are financially OK, but they do have some issues, such as their stadium not being in the best shape. Facilities and coaching wise Stabæk has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Another issue facing them is that the Eliteserien has some very good teams in it, Italian Giant slayers Bodø/Glimt, Rosenborg, Viking, Molde, and Vålerenga are all quit capable of winning the League, and more often than not all five teams are competing for one of the top four spots that guarantees European football. Playing Stabæk and getting them to the top of the Norwegian League, and potentially to the top of Europe with primarily homegrown talent is going to be a long save, but success will be worth it in my opinion.


The Bonus Challenge/Club: Retrô Futebol Clube Brasil

Founded in 2016 by a businessman in Pernambuco, Brazil, Retrô FC’s mission is to remove children and adolescents from vulnerability, giving them a place to learn, develop, and grow through organized football. In less than six years they’ve achieved promotion and in 2022 (well, December of 2021) they start in Group C of the Brazilian Fourth Division. You’ll have to download a database to play them, I suggest Riddler’s Brazilian League download from Steam. Playing in the 46,154 seat Arena de Perambuco stadium, Retrô FC has the following facilities:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Adequate
  • Youth Recruitment: Above Average

Nicknamed Fênix, Retrô FC is looking to sign players under the age of 23, grow the clubs reputation, and maintain a top 2 finish in the Division. Promotion out of the Division is difficult, and could take some time. But consider the challenge: You are coaching a club who’s main goal is to find and develop Brazilian youth players, some of the best players in the world. Can you find them, develop them, and more importantly keep them long enough to climb your way up the ladder, into the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A? Can you beat the likes of Palmerias, Santos, Corinthians and Flamengo, and win the Copa Libertadores as well?

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