WHEN Kylian Mbappe was 11, he left his native France to play in a trial match for Chelsea’s age-group team against Charlton Athletic. Just imagine where French football’s latest wonder kid would be now if he had signed for Chelsea instead of enrolling in the Clairefontaine Academy. Probably on loan at Nottingham Forest wondering if he’s going to be the next Josh McEachran.

English football has rightly been basking in the glory of last weekend’s World Cup victory for the Under-20s, and the success in South Korea is a welcome sign that the creation of St George’s Park and attempts to create a clearer pathway between the various age groups within the England set-up are bearing fruit.

But you only have to look at Tuesday’s friendly in Paris to see how far English football still has to progress when it comes to developing players for the senior international team.

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Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele were France’s stand-out performers as they shrugged off the controversial dismissal of Rafael Varane to beat England at the Stade de France. One is 18, the other 20. Both would have been eligible for France’s Under-20 team if their careers hadn’t already taken them to much a higher level.

While we take pride in the fact that Ademola Lookman has had a handful of first-team appearances for Everton and Lewis Cook has been playing in the Premier League for Bournemouth, France’s equivalent players are starring in the Champions League for Monaco and Borussia Dortmund.

Mbappe made his Ligue 1 debut for Monaco when he was just 16, and scored his first senior goal just two months after his 17th birthday. Dembele was 18 when he scored on his Ligue 1 debut for Rennes, and had just turned 19 when he earned his maiden call-up to France’s senior squad.

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Would they have been afforded such opportunities if they had been English youngsters on the books of a club in the Premier League? Almost certainly not. Marcus Rashford is the only English player to have been fast-tracked in a comparable fashion in the last few years, and it can be argued that he was only offered a first-team chance at Manchester United because the club was beset by attacking injury problems.

Everton deserve credit for the way in which they blooded Lookman, Tom Davies and Mason Holgate last season, but along with Southampton, they are a rare example of a Premier League club prepared to trust young English talent.

Beyond those two sides, and certainly at the clubs that dominate the top end of the table and tend to represent England in the Champions League, it is all-but-impossible for young players to break into the first team.

Chelsea are the worst culprits when it comes to stockpiling young talent without ever really giving their academy players a viable route to the senior side, but they are far from the only offenders. Manchester City and Arsenal are just as bad, and while those clubs might consistently dominate the FA Youth Cup, their success is not reflected in the number of players who progress from youth team to senior set-up.

Chelsea can claim there is a financial benefit to the way in which they farm out young players before selling them on to make a profit – Patrick Bamford joined Middlesbrough for a fee that could eventually rise to £9m without having made a single first-team appearance in a Chelsea shirt – but it is hard to argue their approach is in their young players’ best interest, and it is certainly doing nothing to help produce players for the England team.

Nathaniel Chalobah is part of the England Under-21 squad that will compete in the European Championships that start later today. The midfielder has won more caps through the age group system than any other player – his tally is approaching 100 – but at the age of 22, he has made the grand total of one Premier League start. It might be that he is not quite good enough to succeed at that level, but it is ridiculous that he is part of a system that means we still don’t really know what he is capable of.

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The growth of the Premier League has done many great things, but as clubs get richer, so it is easier for them to throw money at a problem rather than try to solve it themselves via their youth team. The transfer window has not even officially opened yet, but Manchester City are already committed to spending £80m on two players. So that’s two more barriers preventing their academy prospects from breaking into the first team.

English youngsters do not get a chance at a majority of English clubs, so perhaps it is time they started looking beyond their domestic system.

By the time they are 18 or 19, promising Belgian youngsters are already scattered all over Europe. Even though French clubs tend to be quick to promote from within, young players from that country still head abroad if an opportunity arises. The same tends to be true of youngsters from Portugal or Holland.

English players, however, remain happy to sign lucrative contracts at one of the Premier League’s big boys, even though they know they will find themselves in the Under-23 set-up or on loan at a club in the Football League.

Is that really the best thing for them? Why not head to the Dutch Eredivisie, German Bundesliga or Portuguese Primeira Liga, leagues where they could find themselves playing for a club happy to give them a chance?

Not only would they benefit from being exposed to a different culture and style of football, they would also get some meaningful competitive experience at a crucial formative stage of their development.

It might mean turning down an extra £20,000-a-week, and it might mean missing out on the kudos of signing for a Chelsea or a Manchester City. In the long run, though, it would surely be worthwhile.

For far too long, English football has assumed that its way is the right way. Time and time again, the evidence on the pitch proves otherwise. When it comes to developing young footballers, no other nation is as insular or stuck in its ways as England. Sunday’s Under-20 World Cup victory was a step in the right direction. Tuesday’s events in Paris prove there is still an awfully long way to go.