Feyenoord's sporting director Leo Beenhakker has accused England's top clubs of behaving like "great white sharks" in their pursuit of young talent, after the Dutch side's exciting 15-year-old defender Nathan Ake agreed terms with Chelsea.
Beenhakker, the respected former manager of Ajax, the Netherlands and Real Madrid, spoke out after Chelsea agreed compensation of around £300,000 with Feyenoord for training costs to sign Ake when he turns 16 in February.
Chelsea faced stiff competition from Manchester City for Ake, who is captain of the Dutch Under-17 team. Beenhakker, however, was very critical of the way the deal was conducted, and accused Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal of predatory behaviour.
He said: "What can you do? English clubs are the great white sharks of football. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are all in the game. We had a wonderful deal for Nathan, but the lad wanted only one thing: Chelsea. It's game over for us.
"I've discussed this matter with Nathan and his parents. He told me that he really wanted to move to England and his parents were OK with his decision. It's obviously bad news for Feyenoord. We can't do anything about it if a foreign club comes up to sign one of our youngsters. The Premier League clubs spoil the market with their behaviour. Other clubs in Europe aren't doing this kind of thing, but the English sides just don't care."
The issue is a major problem for Dutch clubs who are witnessing a drain of young talent to English clubs. Feyenoord were unhappy when talented midfielder Kyle Ebecilio, 16, left the club to join Arsenal last summer. In 2007 they also lost out on defender Jeffrey Bruma who was 16 when he moved to Chelsea.
Manchester United have also been getting in on the act. Last summer Ajax were furious when United signed Gyliano van Velzen, a Dutch Under-16 international, from the Amsterdam club's renowned academy.
Chelsea deny any wrongdoing in signing Ake. A spokesman said: "We have kept Feyenoord fully abreast of our interest and we have reached an agreement with them."
Chelsea have been accused of predatory behaviour before, not least when they signed Gaël Kakuta from Lens in 2007, prompting a transfer ban from Fifa that was overturned on appeal. Kakuta, now 19, has signed a new four-year deal with Chelsea, as The Independent revealed yesterday.
Kakuta's goal is now a regular starting place. He said: "Since I signed for Chelsea when I was 16 all I was thinking about was to get to the first team. Now I have been playing a few times with the first team and I have signed for four-and-a-half more years, I have to make a way for myself into the starting 11, and make my dream come true.
"The manager said to me it is the right time to play and I think for me it is as well. It's my job to do my best and try to play more often and show the coach that I am good enough to play in the team."Reuse content