The transfers of two 13-year-olds to Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim and VfL Wolfsburg have triggered a row over top clubs' efforts to attract younger players with critics calling for an end of "child snatching."
The two players, from Berlin and Hamburg, will now move to Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg respectively, hundreds of miles from their homes, with the full support of their parents.
"We have to accept the transfer but in my view he will not be able to deliver 100 percent in Wolfsburg," said St Pauli youth director Joachim Philipkowski over the departure of their player. "He will be taken out of his familiar environment. I do not think this is the right way."
Several other teams as well as the German football league (DFL), which runs the top divisions, and the country's football association (DFB) have expressed concern.
"There used to be a gentlemen's agreement in the past that one should not take away talent," said DFL managing director Holger Hieronymus. "Therefore there is the wish to have such an agreement again."
VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96 have opposed such transfers.
"I am not a friend of ripping people, who are too young, from their social environment," said Hannover sports director Jorg Schmadtke.
Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg have defended their actions, saying such transfers were common practice in every other major European league.
"I don't know what this hypocrisy is all about," said Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath (pictured) from his team's winter training camp in Dubai. "You have to get the players early if you want to develop them."
"We all took the decision together to set up youth academies and focus on youth work. That is the consequence," said Magath in reference to the country's obligatory youth academies for clubs in the top two divisions.
Following disappointing results forh the national team in 1998 and 2000, Germany decide to set up the academies to develop a new generation of top players.
The results of the investment, which has exceeded 500 million euros since 2002, has been evident in recent years with Germany finishing third in the 2010 World Cup, fielding their youngest national team in 76 years.
Borussia Dortmund won the Bundesliga title last season with a number of young players in their starting team.comments