Sitting watching the Barcelona v Arsenal match last night, I was day dreaming about a time in the future when Liverpool could play such stunningly beautiful assured one touch, passing football. Then I realised, that far from being a far fetched fantasy, there is a slight possibility of it happening, without spending the millions required to improve the team with star players all the way across the eleven. It sounds impossible but it is not as implausible as it first appears. Last summer, in the shake-up of the Liverpool Academy, Rafa Benitez brought in two men who could well see this dream come true: Jose Segura and Rodolfo Borrell. Both played critical roles in recruiting and coaching many of the key players that now makeup Barcelona’s first team squad.
Rodolfo Borrell especially was critical in the development of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas as well as coaching Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez, Bojan Krkic, Everton’s Mikel Arteta and our own Pepe Reina. Some of these are the most technically gifted of their generation and in Messi, the current World & European Player of the Year, they have a player who could be up their with the all time greats. Both Messi and Fabregas have credited Borrell with their development early on in their careers. When Borrell oversaw the under 12s, without Messi in the team, they beat everyone in their way, in one season playing 30 games, winning 29 and scoring an astonishing 200 goals with only 10 conceded. At Under 14s, still in the absence of Messi, the team won the league with seven weeks still left in the season. With Fabregas, Pique and others in the team, things couldn’t get any better, but things did when Messi arrived at aged 13. Borrell said about that team:
“Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique … unbelievable. The highest quality you can imagine. It was fantastic.”
Highly regarded as a coach and scout around the world because of his 18 year spell at Barcelona, Borrell decided to leave Barca last summer for a new challenge after being looked over for promotion twice for the Reserve coaching role. Both Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique were given the role ahead of him and Benitez capitalised on his discontent to bring him to coach Liverpool’s Under 18s. Both Pique and Fabregas have praised Borrell as the best coach they have ever had, a fantastic appraisal considering the illustrious coaches they have both played under. The fundamental reason being, Borrell is not only able to scout talent to find the most gifted players, he can also develop them and know what position to play them in. With Messi, Borrell brought him out of his shell and got him to perform at his best, and with Fabregas he even reinforced his confidence when he was at Arsenal by giving him a signed Guardiola shirt when his parents were going through a divorce.
With Borrell and Segura, both central figures in Barca’s youth academy La Macia and who have brought through the Catalan Club’s present generation of extraordinarily gifted footballers, Rafa has put faith in the right people. There is every possibility that within the next ten years, if they stay in their jobs, Liverpool should develop the Academy infrastructure to bring through players at the same quality as Barca . Let’s pray it works.
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