Player development is a vitally important part of managing your club. If done effectively it will help you to secure long term success for your club both on the pitch and financially, as it will give you a continuous supply of quality players who you can then either play in your first team or sell on for a profit.
The benefits of focusing on youth are discussed further in the Squad Building guide.
To properly appreciate how player development works you will first need an understanding of current ability and potential ability.
The Player Ability & Performance guide explains current ability and potential ability in detail.
There are three components of successful player development. The first is youth intake. In order to continually produce quality talent you will need to ensure that young players with good potential ability are being regularly brought into the club.
The other two components involve the actual development process itself and so are interlinked. They are optimising player improvement and shaping player development. You will need to improve the current ability of your developing players so that it fulfils as much of their potential ability as possible, as early as possible, and also shape the distribution of their current ability so that they can each be an effective part of your tactics.
1. Youth Intake
You should ensure that new potential talent is being brought in regularly and that each position is covered. A big club with a good youth system is likely to have at least two players in every position in its youth squad.
You can source young players both internally and externally.
1.1. Internal Recruitment
Once a year you will have the opportunity to offer youth contracts to players who have come through the junior teams in your youth system. This is the most financially efficient way to recruit young players in the long term, but may require an initial investment in the relevant facilities, as detailed below, for players with good potential ability to come through.
The staff member you place in charge of bringing youth players into the club (either your Head of Youth Development or Youth Manager) will influence the type of players who come through the junior teams, as explained in the Coaches guide.
1.2. External Recruitment
You can also look elsewhere for young players with good potential ability using your scouts and the player search feature. However, you will have to pay a transfer fee if a player is already owned by another club, meaning that this method is more expensive in the long term.
Despite this, if the development of the players you buy is successful then it still allows you to bring players into your senior squad at a lower cost than if you were to buy already established players, and also to potentially sell on for a profit those players who become surplus to your requirements. In addition, it enables you to sign high potential players even if you are not currently able to recruit them internally from your own junior teams, or simply to supplement your internally sourced talent. Furthermore, it allows you to target particular types of players, for example, players with particular attribute ratings, preferred moves and personalities, which can make the development process easier.
2. The Development Process
2.1. Factors that Affect Improvement
To successfully develop the players at your club you will need to understand the factors that affect how likely a player's current ability is to increase. The more likely a player's current ability is to increase the more quickly he will improve.
The most important factors are:
Match experience – the more match experience the player gains and the better the quality of the match experience that he gains the more likely his current ability is to increase. The higher his current ability is the higher the level he will need to play at for it to increase significantly further.
His personality attributes – the higher the player's Professionalism attribute is the better he will perform in training and so the more likely his attributes are to improve, therefore the more likely his current ability is to increase. Ambition also has a positive effect on training. Determination does not have a direct impact on improvement, although since it has a positive impact on match performances it can help a player to be selected more often and so gain more match experience. It is also a common trait of players with high Ambition or Professionalism.
Additional important factors include:
General training – the more time the player spends in general training and the higher the general training intensity (effectively, the heavier the team training overall workload) the more likely his attributes are to improve, therefore the more likely his current ability is to increase.
Club facilities – the higher the quality of the club's facilities the better. This is explained in more detail for the different types of facilities below.
Tutoring – this changes the player's personality attributes, some of which in turn affect how well he performs in training as detailed above.
Fitness – the better the player's fitness is the more time he is capable of playing in matches, while the less time the player spends out of action due to injury the more time he spends training as well, and so the more likely his current ability is to increase. A player's Natural Fitness and Stamina attributes affect how much match time he is capable of playing. A player's Injury Proneness hidden attribute affects the amount of injuries that he gets, while his Natural Fitness and Stamina also have an indirect effect on injuries, but player fitness should be well managed for all players to help prevent injuries.
Morale and training happiness do not affect training or development.
However, a player's current ability cannot improve indefinitely. The effects of the above factors are restrained by a player's potential ability and natural development, as explained below:
Potential ability – the player's current ability cannot increase beyond his potential ability.
Natural development – the player's age affects how likely his current ability is to increase. The younger he is, the more likely his current ability is to increase. As he ages his current ability becomes less and less likely to increase, until he reaches his natural peak, at which point his current ability is no longer able to increase. The older he gets after this point the more likely his current ability is to decrease. At any stage during this process the rate at which current ability increases or decreases is also affected by the above factors.
The natural peak varies between players. For goalkeepers it is typically between 31 and 35, for defenders and midfielders 27 and 32 and for strikers 26 and 31.
Physical attributes in particular are greatly affected by natural development; they are more likely to increase than other attributes when a player is young and more likely to decrease than other attributes when a player is old.
In addition to its affects on fitness, as discussed above, the Natural Fitness attribute is strongly related to natural development. The higher a player's Natural Fitness attribute is the slower his physical attributes will decline.
2.2. Optimising Player Improvement
From the factors given above it can be seen that to maximise the improvement of your developing players' current ability you should:
Use player tutoring to help them to develop personalities that will enable them to get the most out of their training, especially if they do not already have good Professionalism and Ambition upon being brought to the club, as explained in the Player Tutoring guide.
Give them as much match experience as is feasible, at as high a level as possible, while still managing fitness - this may require you to send players out on loan after they have been given appropriate tutoring and training and have improved enough to sufficiently benefit from loan spells, as explained in the Match Experience guide.
Give them as heavy a team training overall workload and individual training focus as is feasible, at the highest quality possible given your club's resources, without allowing workloads to be so heavy that they cause a significant amount of injuries - over time you can improve your club's facilities and sign better coaches, therefore increasing the quality of training further.
2.3. Shaping Player Development
To prepare your young players for playing in your first team you will need to give them training that is designed to mould them for both your team's overall tactical style and the tactical roles you intend to use them in.
Each player's training schedule (as determined by general training and his individual training focus) affects how his current ability is distributed among his attributes. Current ability is more likely to be distributed to those attributes which are given more training. The quality of your coaches in each training category, as described above, will also affect how likely current ability is to be distributed to those attributes trained in the category.
Details of how to set up training to both optimise player improvement and shape player development are given in the Training and Youth Training guides.
2.4. Players Who Have Peaked
Those players who have reached their potential ability or natural peak will no longer improve, as explained above. However, their current ability will continue to be redistributed according to their training schedules, meaning that you can still shape their ability to some extent using training.
You should also continue to give them regular match time and a decent level of training in order to slow down the decline in their current ability, although you may need to manage their fitness more carefully.
Since their physical attributes will tend to fall most quickly, you may want to try to slow down this physical decline by using individual training focuses that train physical attributes.
2.5. Event-Based Development
Player attributes can sometimes change as a direct result of certain events or experiences. For example, some mental attributes can improve when you warn or fine a player for a poor performance or for being sent off, while Leadership can improve as a player gains experience captaining a team. Similarly, if a player achieves something rare in a match then related attributes may improve, so if a player scores a rare hat-trick then he may gain improvements in attributes related to goal-scoring.
You can give a player a warning or a fine for a poor performance or for being sent off by selecting Discipline Player For from his Interaction drop-down, but the player may become unhappy if he feels this is not justified. You should therefore think carefully about whether and how you discipline your players, and give no more than a warning for lesser offences.
3. Club Facilities
Your club's facilities play an important part in player improvement, and so in order to consistently develop future stars you will need high quality facilities. You can request facility improvements from your club's board using the Make Board Request drop-down on the Board screen, but you may need to be patient and allow the stature and financial status of your club to grow before your requests are granted. It is advisable to gain the respect of the board by improving your club's stature, as well as ensuring healthy finances, before making a request.
Provided below for each of the facilities are details of their effects on player development and their possible levels from best to worst. Also given is the board request category that you will need to select when making an improvement request.
3.1. Training Facilities
Affects - the quality of training for players in the senior squad and therefore how quickly current ability improves for players in this squad.*
Levels (best to worst) - state of the art, excellent, great, impressive, good, average, adequate, below average, basic, poor
Board request category - Facilities
*This also applies to players in the reserve squad in nations where the reserve squad shares training facilities with the senior squad. You can see if this is the case on the General Training panel on the reserve squad's Team Training screen, accessed from its Training tab. This states "shared facilities" if facilities are shared.
3.2. Youth Facilities
Affects - how quickly current ability improves for players training in the youth squad.*
Levels (best to worst) - top, excellent, superb, great, good, average, adequate, below average, poor, basic
Board request category - Facilities
*This also applies to players in the reserve squad in nations where the reserve squad shares training facilities with the youth squad, and is effectively an older age group youth squad. You can see if this is the case on the General Training panel on the lower age group youth squad's Team Training screen, accessed from its Training tab.
3.3. Junior Coaching
Affects - the current ability of players internally recruited to the youth squad. Players with higher current ability will require less improvement to reach their potential ability.
Levels (best to worst) - exceptional, excellent, good, average, adequate, basic, minimal
Board request category - Finance
3.4. Youth Recruitment
Affects - the potential ability of players internally recruited to the youth squad and the range of nations they are recruited from. Players with higher potential ability can reach higher levels of current ability, although other factors will affect whether or not they do so.
Levels (best to worst) - extensive, well established, established, above average, average, fairly basic, basic, limited
Board request category - Networking
3.5. Youth Level
This is for English clubs only and is part of the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan.
Affects - the league level that the under 21s squad and under 18s squad compete in. The higher the level, the better the match experience the players in these squads will gain.
Levels (best to worst) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 0
Board request category - Facilities
This information should help you to decide which of your club's facilities need prioritising for future improvement according to both the current facilities levels and your personal youth development strategy, as well as helping you decide upon the strategy itself. For example, in the short term you may want to focus on scouting and signing players with high potential ability from other clubs rather than recruiting them from your own junior teams, especially if your junior coaching and youth recruitment are poor. This would result in a prioritisation of your youth facilities and training facilities. However, you may have a long term aim to eventually improve your internal youth intake as well.