Arsenal to spend Bt50m on Thais
[SOCCER] English giants Arsenal have agreed to a deal with local academy JMG (Thailand) on an option to buy two Thai players from the academy, which could be worth more than Bt50 million.
Founded by ex-France international Jean Marc Guillou, JMG (Thailand) is now training 20 talented Thai youngsters aged 12-13, who were selected from thousands of applicants in a nation-wide trail last year.
Training to become a professional footballer takes on average seven years, and the Champions League finalists have already booked their right to buy the two best players from the academy's first-year students, which means they will be ready to make the move in 2012.
"This deal marks a significant shift in the way Thailand will be seen on the football map," said JMG (Thailand) managing director Robert Procureur.
"In the past years many Thai companies were actually paying to either sponsor the sending of some Thai players on trial abroad or to bring in big European clubs on tour in Thailand, but the long-term benefit to Thai football was negligible."
Guillou set up his first JMG academy with a similar concept in Africa's Ivory Coast in the early '90s and the success has been tremendous. The Ivory Coast has grown from an African lightweight to a World Cup finalist this year, with 70 per cent of the team coming from JMG academy graduates.
Two JMG graduates, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, were brought by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and have quickly established themselves in the first team line-up.
"This is the first time that a major European club is ready to invest in Thai talent. We will soon start recruiting new young promising players for our second promotion and from then onwards you will see more and more Thais courted by top European clubs," added Procureur.