Club academies failing, says Benitez

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, has claimed the English game is being undermined by an academy system that fails to expose young players to enough competitive football.

Benitez has embarked on a recruitment policy not dissimilar to that of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, tonight's Carling Cup quarter-final opponents, and, under-whelmed by early offerings from the club's academy, has added teenagers from Argentina, Morocco and, naturally, Spain, to a club that last season lifted the FA Youth Cup. Yet, unlike Wenger, he will not turn en masse to his young charges for tonight's quarter-final at Anfield where, he believes, investment in youth pales in comparison with the Emirates Stadium.

"What is the youth policy of Arsenal? Spending big money on top class young players. That is not a difficult youth policy if you have a lot of money to spend," argued Benitez, who spent almost £28m on his senior pool this summer. "The situation we have now is different to when I first started here and I am really pleased with the work of the scouting department, but we know there is a big difference with Arsenal, who can pay millions for Denilson and also spend big on [Theo] Walcott."

Benitez also reiterated his view that England should follow the example of his native Spain and scrap the academy system to allow leading clubs to field second teams outside the Premiership.

"We need to give young players more competitive games," he said. "At the moment they play 18 games a season against players of their own age and nothing happens. When I was manager of Real Madrid's second team in the Spanish second division the young lads were up against 25-year-olds and 35-year-olds of quality, and so they learned more.

"The system here is not working. They need to play against men. Why can we not do both? I think we need to if you want to improve the level of English football."

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