Name: Lauri Dalla Valle
Height: 5ft 11
Date of Birth: 14th Sept 1991
Place of Birth: Kontiolahti
Two comments about the talents of Lauri Dalla Valle should really excite Liverpool fans: the Liverpool academy scout Ian Barrigan was quoted as saying, “I would say he is the most natural finisher in the history of our academy,” this is quite a stunning appraisal by a academy which has also seen the likes of Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler coming through its ranks. Another quote which is equally as significant from the Finnish sports magazine Urheilulehti stated that Dalla Valle “was the most promising 1991 born Finnish player and ultimately one of the most talented Finnish players of all time.”
Dalla Valle (as you may tell from his name has an Italian father) started out his career at his hometown club Joensuun JIPPO, and was quickly spotted by talent scouts from Internazionale in Italy. At the age of 14, he moved to Italy to be part of the Milan giants youth academy. At his tender age however, not knowing the language or culture made it difficult for Lauri and within four months he returned back to JIPPO. During his brief spell back at his hometown club he played mostly as a winger and was tracked by many of Europe’s top clubs. In autumn 2006 Liverpool offered Dalla Valle a trial. Malcolm Elias and many other staff at the academy had been tracking Lauri’s development and after an international under 16 match against Ireland, Elias was quoted as saying
I was very convinced after seeing the game and it just confirmed the previous info I’d gotten on him. He is a special talent, there’s no doubt about that. He can utilise the space given to him well, is smart, has good vision on the pitch, controls the game and can score goals.
He played in a training match against Blackburn Rovers Youths at Melwood where he scored one goal and assisted another contributing to a 2-1 win. He impressed the academy staff Malcolm Elias, Steve Heighway and Gwyn James so much that they offered the Finnish youngster a 4 year contract.
Lauri decided for the time being to return to Finland and started the 2007 season in the Finnish first division with JIPPO where he played eight games on the wing. In his eighth game for the club, Lauri scored his first goal but the game also saw him pick up a serious ankle injury which kept him out for a few months. A few months in which a whole host of top European sides were competing for his signature, including his former team Inter, Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea. It is said that Chelsea offered the Finnish starlet in October 2007 a three and half year contract, a million pound signing on fee bonus and double any wages Liverpool were prepared to pay. Lauri however favoured Liverpool and signed a three and half year deal in January 2008 which will keep him at the club until 2011. He said of the move,
Earlier, I trained for 4 months with Inter Milan, but I was always tempted by Liverpool and I thought it through before I made my decision.
Dalla Valle mostly played as a striker during his time at the academy last year and has been compared to Fernando Torres by Steve Claridge when watching a FA Youth Cup tie against Birmingham City during Liverpool’s run to the final in early 2009. Many others, who have watched the player more regularly, have made comparisons with Wayne Rooney due to his height and style of play. Liverpool academy scout Ian Barrigan stated
He must play as an out and out striker though his best position is behind the main striker.
He has speed, work rate and fantastic finishing ability, scoring 20 goals in 28 games for Liverpool’s Under 18s last season and has a fantastic goals to game ratio for Finland at U16, U17 and U19 level. His most high profile appearances so far came in the FA Youth Cup final run last season where he scored 8 times, including 4 in a two legged tie against Birmingham.
What makes Dalla Valle stand out as a player though is his all round ability. He can lead the line and be that predator in the box, arriving in the right place at the right time whether slotting home from distance or banging in a goal from a goal line melee. It is natural talent that cannot be taught as his positioning in the build-up of attacks and knowledge of where to stand in the box are right on the money. According to youth coach John Owens:
Lauri has a great balance and skills as a striker, but first and foremost he is an excellent finisher and goal scorer. If he gets into the right positions, he has the ability to make the right decisions.
He is however a very hard working player and loves to drop off the front into midfield when closing down opponents or when holding the ball up to make sure possession is retained. He has an excellent first touch and great anticipation meaning he is rarely tackled in tight areas. Such promise has meant he was promoted to the Melwood this season, competing for a starting place in John McMahon’s reserve side. He has however been injured for the majority of this season but he made a dramatic return to the Liverpool U-18s side back in January, scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Leicester City in the FA Youth Cup. A performance which was rewarded with a man of the match award.