Photo – Paddy Cummins. Dublin schoolboy Zak Gilsenan, 9, has been snapped up by Spanish outfit Barcelona after impressing their scouts in a trial.
Gilsenan scored seven goals in the trial to beat a field of 400 young hopefuls to join the FCB Escola football academy.
The academy is part of a world-renowned training facility in La Masia which has led the Catalan giants to dominate European football in recent seasons and produce talent of the quality of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Gilsenan’s father Stephen told the Irish Sun the family were so excited by the news that they are now planning to emigrate to Spain to help Zak fulfil his dream.
“We were living in Australia when Zak was spotted by Spurs, who were running football camps over there,” he said.
“We came home with the intention of letting Zak go to Spurs, but in the meantime we had a call from Barcelona. One of their former players saw him playing in Oz and recommended him to Barca.
“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.
“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. We know it’s ruthless over there. We don’t want him turned into a machine, we just want him to enjoy it. It’s his dream to play for Ireland.”
Spanish football is enjoying unprecedented success, with Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst Europe’s pre-eminent sides and the international team winning successive European Championships on either side of their 2010 World Cup triumph.
Much of that has been ascribed to their coaching of young players — and the major clubs leave no stone unturned in their search for the best young talent. Earlier this year Barcelona signed Takefusa Kubo, dubbed the ‘Japanese Messi’. If the club has unearthed two more young players to match the Argentine’s achievements, they’ll still be doing all right 10 years from now…