Monday, 30 July 2012

Youth players at United - patience is the key.

Fabio Paim. A name many of you will never have heard before. If you play a lot of Football Manager or follow Chelsea Reserves then his name will ring a bell.

“If you think I am good, wait until you see Fabio Paim”. These were the words uttered by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Sporting CP. We all know how the latter turned out, but the former, if Mr. Ronaldo was right, could have been something else.

Fabio Paim was the kind of player who, at the tender age of 13, would dribble past every single player on the opposition team, get through on goal and instead of shooting, would run back to the half way line and start all over again. That’s how talented he was. However, with no one able to guide him down the right path and teach him how to control his money, he became lazy and thought that he was far better than everyone around him.

After several unproductive loan spells including one to Luis Felipe Scolari’s Chelsea, Sporting CP decided to offload their bigheaded winger in 2010. Fabio Paim is now without a club, having last played for Primeiro de Agosto in Angola until getting released in April 2012.
Fabio Paim - to be this cool takes time
In an interview with Record shortly after being released from Primeiro de Agosto, Fabio Paim admitted making many mistakes in his career:   
“Today I look at ex-colleagues like Rui Patricio and Daniel Carriço and I think that I could be in their place, even at a higher level. But they always worked hard, whilst I made several mistakes. I'm happy for them, I am not envious; I do not hold any grudges, even when they tell me on the street that I could be better than Cristiano Ronaldo. The truth is that I could not handle the fact that football was not a hobby but a profession.”
Why Fabio Paim? Because he is the prime example of what could happen to many young footballers if they are given too much money and promised glory far too soon.

When news crept through that Sir Alex Ferguson refused to give Paul Pogba the contract he wanted, I could not help but smile at the decision. The old man is no fool. Players should not demand contract renewals, they should work hard and wait until they are offered one. A salary increase is a reward, not an obligation. Yes, Paul Pogba is a talented footballer and will probably enjoy a good footballing career but a large ego is not what reserve players need.  Look at Tunnicliffe: he gives his all every game and stays out of the headlines, hence his inclusion in the pre-season tour. The same can be said about Lingard, Petrucci and the Keane brothers.

These youth players will, in a few years time, be central to Manchester United’s plans alongside Nick Powell, Tom Cleverley & the Da Silva twins yet, they are not quite 100% ready for the big leap to the first-team. Lingard and Petrucci have shown flashes of brilliance so far in pre-season and Tunnicliffe has battled hard whenever he has featured but these are only pre-season friendlies. The difference in intensity compared to Premier League games week in, week out is substantial. Loans to the Championship or to the likes of Wigan (look at Cleverley) could be much more beneficial than sitting on a bench hoping to come on for 5 minutes at the end of a game in the 2nd leg of a cup tie.
Petrucci gaining experience in pre-season

This may sound absolutely logical to some of you but the amount of fans calling for some of them to be part of the first team next season is rather staggering.

A great example of what can happen to a player given an opportunity too soon is Freddy Adu. You will have heard of him. He made his debut at the age of 14 for DC United and holds the record as the youngest USA international (16 years and 234 days). Making the leap from the MLS to Benfica at the age of 18 was a great mistake for his career.

Playing only 11 games in 4 years at the Portuguese clubs and being loaned out rather unsuccessfully to a variety of clubs in France, Portugal and Turkey showed that he was nowhere near ready for the increased level of European football. Having now returned to the MLS with Philadelphia Union, Freddy seems to have found his feet again and, still only aged 23, seems to have his career back on track. The hype surrounding Adu was staggering and had he stayed a few more years in the MLS to develop properly, football could have had a new superstar.

What we, as Manchester United fans, do not want to see is a waste of talent. Our reserve team is full of potential ability but youth players need to be given time to grow at their own pace and not forced into a level of football they are unable to keep up with. Turning talented players into stars takes time. Rush things and Manchester United could find itself with a black hole where a potential galaxy of promise used to be.

By Tom Coast

You can read more of Tom's work on his excellent European football blog and you can follow him on Twitter by clicking on the link below.

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