A young boy from Ireland has been touted as the next Lionel Messi after signing for Barcelona's academy.
Zak Gilsenan from Castleknock caught the eye of several clubs including the Spanish giants after scoring seven goals in a trial game in Spain – despite only being nine years old.
After the game he earned the nickname of ‘the Irish Messi’ and his parents have already said they are ready to relocate to Spain to help their son pursue his dream.
He has won a place at FCBE Scola, the football academy, and the La Masia building just outside their Camp Nou stadium into a hall of residence for young players living outside the city. It is now one of the most productive youth academies in the world.
The residence is used to develop the young players that have had to leave their families to train with the Catalan club. While there is much emphasis on turning youngsters into accomplished performers on the field, La Masia also strives to develop rounded human beings.
Current stars of the game to have graduated in recent years include Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Pedro, and Cesc Fabregas.Other players to have lived at La Masia and gone on to play for the first team include Josep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Pepe Reina, Víctor Valdés.
Ireland’s dismal performance in the same tournament has only enhanced the glamour of Spain as the preferred destination for young soccer hopefuls, who in the past have tended to aim for top English clubs.
And Zak’s father, Stephen, said: ‘I know Zak is young to be doing this but kids are like a sponge at this age. People say we are mad but in Barcelona, he will be educated in the best footballing techniques. All we can do is go and see how it develops.
‘One of their former players saw him playing in Oz and recommended him. They offered Zak a trial in May and it was a great experience. It consisted of over 400 boys from all over the world. He was asked back in June when it was cut down to 90.
‘Then in a match between the top 16 players, Zak just ran riot and scored seven goals. He was phenomenal. Then we heard back two weeks ago and they offered him a spot.’
The hard work will now begin for this young Irish wunderkind.
Here at We Make Footballers Academy we wish him all the best of luck!!