Football clubs are recruiting progressively more foreign football players, in particular from developing countries. For this purpose, clubs establish football academies in foreign countries or buy foreign players on the transfer market. We examine the economic rationale behind these two recruitment strategies and discuss how a club’s optimal recruitment strategy depends on the characteristics of the country, which it recruits players from. We argue that a country’s economic development affects the trade-off between the different costs and benefits of the two recruitment strategies. We provide empirical support for our argument by drawing on semi-structured qualitative interviews to describe and compare the transfer markets and football academies in two developing countries with different levels of economic development, namely Senegal and South Africa.