Guillou became manager of Belgian club Beveren in 2001, and established a network between Beveren and ASEC. As soon as ASEC’s top talents turned 18, they went to Beveren, where Guillou took advantage of Belgium’s relaxed foreign player restrictions to field many ASEC products. This was the most important step, because it gave these players the exposure for bigger European clubs to discover them. Kolo Touré’s younger brother, Yaya, took advantage of this connection as well as Gervinho and Emmanuel Eboué. Gervinho and Eboué went on to play for Guillou’s mentor at English club Arsenal, Arsene Wenger.
Due to successes such as ASEC, European clubs have continued to gravitate towards acquiring players from academies. Many academies that have come into existence focus purely on developing young talents rather than fielding a professional team in domestic football. European clubs continue to emphasize youth, so African academies can acquire players aged 18 or 19 years old that contribute immediately or develop into productive players.
Because of partnerships that are formed between academies and European clubs, there are less complications and fees involved that come from negotiating with African professional clubs. Right to Dream Academy in Ghana shares a couple of similarities to Guillou’s example in that African academies are forming direct links to European clubs that are willing to develop their players. As long as African domestic football continues to struggle in many sub-Saharan countries, European clubs will continue to prefer academies due to the convenience and young age of the players.
The Africa-Europe transfer market is thriving now because of the networks that have been formed between African academies and European clubs over the last thirty years. What does the future hold? Well, many players that have graduated to lucrative careers abroad are looking to use their resources and influence to positively contribute to football in their countries. These players are funding or obtaining funding for youth academies of their own or using their connections in Europe to help compatriots get their chance abroad. A great example is Diambars Football Academy in Senegal. Senegalese-born French international Patrick Vieira and former Benin national team player Jean-Marc Adjovi-Bocco have been able to forge networks for Diambars youth products to graduate to European football. Most importantly, their emphasis on educating the players at Diambars opens up opportunities for graduates to make an impact off the field in their communities if the dream of professional football is not realized.