Innovation gives us chance to compete against clubs with bigger resources, admits Paul Brandenburg

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AZ Alkmaar academy director Paul Brandenburg has claimed that continuous innovation is what has given the Dutch side a chance to compete amongst the top clubs in the world. The Eredivisie season was officially marked as over earlier in the week, despite Ajax and Alkmaar in a headlock for the title.

The Amsterdam giants were only in the top spot because of a superior goal difference with AZ Alkmaar and them level on points. But while many believe the title should go to Ajax, including their chief executive Edwin van der Sar, the reality is that Alkmaar were in better shape. The other Dutch giants were in great form before the suspension and had demolished a six-point deficit in just three games in a run that included a win over Ajax.

Yet, while Ajax will take top spot for UEFA qualifications, frustration has ensued because unlike Ajax, Alkmaar cannot build a dynasty. Their financial situation is such that it will force them to sell their best talent and yet academy director Paul Brandenburg is far from worried. The Alkmaar chief went onto admit that innovation is their only way forward with them always on the lookout for new methods to improve.

"We cannot lean back and watch, we have to stay innovative otherwise the bigger clubs with the bigger resources will gobble us up," he adds. "We cannot win based on our resources because we do not have the same resources as some of the bigger clubs, so that makes thinking differently something that is of big importance to us,” he told Sky Sports.

"We are continually trying to broaden our horizons. We like to think big. We have designed our academy that way. We are always looking for aspects to add to our programme, provided that it fits our vision. We not only tend to learn from other sports, but also from successful companies. What is their strategy? How do they recruit and scout talent?"

AZ had been in great form over the course of the season and their charge for their third Eredivisie league title was spearheaded by their academy. Top scorer Myron Boadu is considered to be the next big thing at just 19, captain Tenu Koopmeiners handed Manchester United a tough time in the Europa League group stages and Calvin Stengs has had a marvelous breakout season. It saw Brandenburg admit that while each generation is different, the club’s method of training and vision makes a massive difference to each player.

"Each generation is different, it is all about the talent and the individual. But with our vision on learning and by being generous with our time when we see talent, we are convinced that our programme will make sure that the talents will arise. Our first team consists of 67 percent academy players, of which six or seven are regular starters.

“That is a good thing. It is part of our vision that the biggest talents will get to play. They get their chance as soon as they have earned it. There is a pathway for all AZ youth players and they can see our track record over the years. They want to succeed and are literally around other success stories at our training facility so this make it tangible for them. It definitely helps us with recruiting players,” he added.

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