How Lionel Messi Is Helping Man United’s Academy Players

Barcelona's Lionel Messi warms up before the match.

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Over the past century or so, Man United have established themselves as a club which takes the growth of its young prodigies with utmost seriousness.

The Red Devils have a remarkable feat to their name, which Jose Mourinho has built on since his arrival at the club, of naming at least one homegrown player in every matchday squad since 1937.

But before entering the senior team, the young lads are taught one of the most crucial aspects of the game, and that is to keep the right kind of attitude while always staying grounded.

And according to the report by The Times, United have adopted a marvellous method to keep their teenage academy stars rooted to the ground, by simply putting a picture of Lionel Messi in their academy changing room.

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Seems odd, but the message behind the portrait has a profound significance, as the picture showcases Messi cleaning his own boots after a game for Argentina in 2014, just six months after he played in the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


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The picture, which was taken after an international friendly between Argentina and Croatia at West Ham’s old Upton Park stadium in November 2014, has been put up to remind United’s future stars to always stay humble and never lose perspective, commitment, and motivation.

Red Devils’ youth academy boss, Nicky Butt, further insisted that the priority has always been the development of players for the senior squad.

“For us, it’s about getting players into the first team. The demand from the owners and the board is, ‘You’ve got to get players in the first team.’ We’re doing that,” said Butt.

“Jose Mourinho has this tag that he doesn’t give kids a chance but, if those kids are good enough, he’s going to because it’s beneficial to him. It is a pat on the back for the academy staff that people like Scott [McTominay] and Marcus [Rashford] are going up there and we’re not seeing them again.”


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