In another twist involving the public protector’s office‚ the Minister of Co-operative Governance an.
Italian giants AC Milan raised eyebrows following their decision to pay a staggering R220 million last August to Internacional of Brazil.
This happend when they sealed a deal for their purchase of Alexandre Pato, a 17-year-old striker who will only be eligible to play in Italy this year. Even more recently, Valencia forked out R190 million for 19-year-old Argentinian Ever Banega.
Both signings reflect a rapidly growing new trend in the recruitment policies of professional clubs across the world.
There is an unprecedented race to discover exceptionally talented players at a young age, with top clubs even going as low as targeting those in the 10-12 year-old bracket.
Already, a fair proportion of players that have shown maturity in recent Under-17 and Under-20 international competitions have emerged to stake their claim in professional football and gone on to make headlines in the global media.
The likes of Messi, Giovani Dos Santos, Bojan Krkic (all Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Anderson (Manchester United), Armand Traore and Carlos Vela (Arsenal), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Oscar Ustari (Getafe), Macauley Chrisantus (Hamburg SV), Luis Suarez (Ajax Amsterdam), Toni Kroos and Breno (Bayern Munich) have shone to the extent that they have leapt ahead of many well known internationals in the first team pecking order at their respective clubs.
Most of these young stars have already earned international honours and success with their respective senior national squads.
Those clubs and national teams pride themselves for having some of the brightest and exciting prospects in the history of the game, youthful players capable of raising the bar of footballing excellence to unprecedented levels.
The trend of the future is. here. The policy of recruiting young prospects has long been a common trend signifying wise and profitable investment for clubs that prepare for the future. However, an immediate element has been added to the equation.
Competent observers have identified substantial changes in the game in recent times, mainly due to the impressive package of abilities displayed by the new generation of exceptional players - and this is the key factor that must be highlighted.
The new dimensions added to the way the game is played at its best by the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan, Arsenal or Manchester United is not an improved version of the simple, direct-and-fast, intense and physical play-concept. It becomes irrational and vastly counterproductive to restrict the game philosophy to a one-dimensional approach in a team comprised of players that have mastered the technique, apply the best solutions and are able to improvise in any tactical situation and dictate the pace of the game according to their own team objective.
The views of reputable technicians on this new reality are identical even when coming from contrasting footballing environments.
Carlos Alberto, Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning captain - who has extensive international coaching experience - and Sir Trevor Brooking, the director of development at the English FA, have both concluded that, in order to succeed today at the highest level, all players must excel in every aspect of performance. One of the most distinctive features of the new wave of the finest very young talent - Kaka, LMessi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabregas, Bojan, Giovani Dos Santos, and others - is their mesmerising technique.
They possess a complete range of perfect and accurate ball skills that enables them to do everything. and a bit more. One crucial aspect of the game that was largely overlooked until recently is that only when technique is mastered would a player be able to choose the best option out of 4-5 that are usually possible in a given play situation.
Suppose that the best option - the one that will hurt the opposition most - requires the player to take a risk, by either dribbling past the last defender, attempting a complicated scoring technique or a deceptive pass, etc. If the player's technique is limited or underdeveloped, the best option is not, cannot, be taken.
Players who lack superior technique cannot afford risks and with the consequent "safety-first" mentality, they opt for the less effective second, third or last option. Such players are not good enough for high performance.
By contrast, the exceptional technique of Kaka, Messi, C. Ronaldo and others eliminates the risk in the "risk option" and replaces it with important or decisive tactical gains.
This extra dimension of technical competency allows the "risk option" to be taken in any game situation, including individual attacking actions initiated from one's own defence area.
Derek Rae, a football analyst of international reputation, evidenced that the Lionel Messi-type of footballer emerging from the few highly advanced youth programmes, gives football a rare combination of Zidane's vision, anticipation and touches; a modern-day Pele's magic finishing and Maradona's creativity, trickery and entertaining personality. - The Football Institute (Pty) Ltd
l Read Part 2 next week.