In an interview with Monaco Life, AS Monaco’s Director of Youth Development Pascal De Maesschalck reveals that the club’s “no closed doors policy” is the key to its successful youth-oriented strategy.
Hired in the summer of 2021, De Maesschalck is an indispensable link in the chain, ensuring a pathway for youth players to move from the Principality club’s academy, into the first-team.
The spotlight is once again on Monaco’s academy. Having developed the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, and more recently Kylian Mbappé, there is a new generation of youth bursting through the doors of the professional side.
Eliesse Ben Seghir is the most recognised of this new cohort of graduates, but the likes of Soungoutou Magassa have also made a name for themselves when offered their debut by manager Philippe Clement.
In the search for Monaco’s secret to youth development success, for De Maesschalck, there is only one place to start. It all starts with good recruitment. You can’t have success without good players,” began the Belgian.
He continued, “That’s the work of our team of recruiters. In France it is a global system of trying to get players from the age of 10, 13, 14 to sign agreements. That gives you three years to work with them: from the age of 15 until the age of 18. We have a very good team of coaches from U17-level. It’s part of the DNA of Monaco to have a policy to do everything that is necessary to produce the talent, that’s the factory part of it, but it starts with recruitment,” he continued.
The recent creation of the Elite Groupe is a major facet of Monaco’s recent success in integrating young players into the first-team. In a recent interview with Monaco Life, sporting director Paul Mitchell attributed Ben Seghir’s breakthrough to the creation of the side, which participates against English academies in the Premier League International Cup.
Relative to last year, De Maesschalck is already seeing a difference, which he attributes to entry into the competition. “It is important to integrate into other contexts, like playing against Premier League academies. If you play against Manchester United at Old Trafford in front of 10,000 people, it’s a challenge, a different type of pressure. It wasn’t something we could create last year. The experience is a thrill that motivates players even more and it is this aspect where I see a huge difference compared to last year,” he said.
However, for De Maesschalck, the true source of success transcends the structure, and encompasses a wider, institution-wide ideology.
“What we do well is creating the connection. There are no doors closed to the first team. It is the installation of a political philosophy. I sit down with the management biweekly and we discuss many topics, including about the talent,” he began.
“Our directors and management try to watch the games live, so they see the evolution. The players are so well known because there are no barriers, no closed doors. You watch the players train, you watch them play, you watch the feedback and you see an evolution. The feedback is daily. Everyone at Monaco knows that young players are part of our future, and they always will be. It is so natural here. The process is very fluid,” he continued.
The transparency in the club creates what De Maesschalck described as a “unique environment”, one in which youth flourishes. As a Director of Youth Development, De Maesschalck is always looking towards the future, and at Monaco, he believes that future is bright.
“I am convinced that here it was possible to work with young players and they can become successful in the first-team. I believe in a few years, we will be playing four or five academy players in the Monaco first-team,” he said. Given that two academy products have already made their professional debuts this year, that prediction doesn’t seem at all far-fetched.
Photo by AS Monaco