Google+ Blueprint for Football: June 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Danger of Too Much Promise (And Bad Advice)

Imagine that you're an eighteen year old who has been given the opportunity to learn and develop at Barcelona's famous La Masia complex.  Imagine also that you're so good that Pep Guardiola occasionally adds you to the first team; even giving you playing time in pre-season friendlies and Copa del Rey games.  And, on top of all of that, imagine also that the club has such faith in you that they've offered you a three year contract.  Life, one would imagine, would pretty much be perfect.

For Guy Assulin there was no need to imagine: this was his life. Only that in his eyes life wasn't perfect.  So much that when Barcelona offered him that three year deal he turned it down.  He didn't want to keep on playing for Barca's 'B' team, where the club's coaches felt his development would be facilitated, but instead wanted to play on the big stage.

So instead his contract was torn up and he opted to join Manchester City.  Not only was this a club that had ambitions that matched his own, it also claimed that it was willing to turn to youth to fuel it's growth.

Whilst it is true that City are working to reach a point whereby they too, like Barcelona, have a team centred around players that have been developed at its academy, for them that is a longer term goal.

In the short term it is money and the players it can convince to join them which will allow them to fulfill their ambitions.  And with that money they tend to fill any gaps in the squad by buying ready made players.

Which left Assulin in a very difficult position. Rather than closer to the first team, he found himself further away. To play at a senior level he had to go out on loan at Brighton but even there he played on only seven occasions. Too little to really make an impact. Too little, also, to convince Manchester City who opted to release him at the end of the season.  Probably not what the boy once likened to Lionel Messi expected would happen when he moved to Manchester.

There is, of course, no guarantee that his career would have turned out any differently had he opted to stay at Barcelona.  Similarly, for a player with such a reputation, Assulin shouldn't have too many problems finding a new club.  He is also young enough to go on to fulfill his early potential.

Yet it is impossible not to look back at these past two years and wonder about what might have been. Not only was Assulin at one of the most successful clubs in modern history but it also happened to be one famed for the faith it held in the players developed through its system.

This he swapped for a club where the pressure to succeed was so high that it was always going to be improbable that a young player would find any way through.

It goes to show that, no matter how good the coaching and the structure, ultimately it depends on the players and those around them.  Some show patience and bow their heads to what other more experienced people tell them.  Others, however, take their talent for granted and assume that hard work isn't something that applies to them. Success, they believe (or are led to believe) will accrue to them by right.

It is the curse of the talented. And why so many fail to make it to the levels they had the potential to reach.