Dubai: Former Real Madrid star Michel Salgado on Wednesday said it’s time to work on the development of Emirati grassroots talents, who will eventually make their mark in football’s big league.
A former right-back from Real’s renowned ‘Galactico’ era, Salgado was speaking at a press briefing to announce details of the biggest renewal of the Under-13 Dubai Intercontinental Football Cup yet, where 24 teams from 12 countries will vie for the top prize over three days from February 13-15.
Current Spain and Manchester United first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea lent his support to the competition by attending the briefing at Dubai Press Club, where Salgado called for a review of the system in place to develop players at the grassroots here and bring them in line with European standards.
“The problem is the system. When I see the kids playing in Arab countries, some of them are like diamonds, but they are rough and need to be shaped,” said Salgado, who made 254 appearances and won four La Liga and two Champions League titles for Real Madrid during his two decades with the club between 1999 and 2009.
“If you want to develop kids who can play in Europe you cannot send them there when they are 18 or 20; it’s very late. The system there is totally different.
“The problem is that kids in the UAE think differently than how we think in Europe. For us, football is about life as since we are 6-7 years old we are only thinking about football. For the clubs it’s the same. They bring the best kids and work with them with the best coaches and that’s how they develop the players.
The problem is that kids in the UAE think differently than how we think in Europe. For us, football is about life as since we are 6-7 years old we are only thinking about football. For the clubs it’s the same
“When I look at these guys I can tell you we can get players from the UAE, who can no doubt play in the big leagues, but we need to organise a system and now is the moment to try and do that to change football in the UAE.”
Salgado said he was keen for Mahmoud Trezeguet to move to La Liga side Celta Vigo, but Aston Villa managed to sign a deal with the Egypt international before the Spanish side could get to him.
“I tried to send Trezeguet to Celta Vigo, but finally Aston Villa got an offer in. But I wanted Trezeguet in my country and playing for Celta Vigo so I know the talent is there here,” said Salgado, who spent three seasons with England’s Blackburn Rovers after leaving Real Madrid.
The Under-13 event is being held under the aegis of Dubai Sports Council, whose Secretary General Saeed Hareb said during the briefing that the success of the tournament could be seen in the growth achieved in the number of teams. Hareb said: “We want this to become the best tournament in the world and because we are in the centre of the world and it’s easy for teams from all over the world to come here easily. We try our best to be the best in the world.
Real Madrid (Spain), Celta Vigo (Spain), FC Barcelona (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Arsenal (England), Inter Milano (Italy), FC Porto (Portugal), Muscat Football Academy (Oman), Al Nasr (UAE), Al Wasl (UAE), Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE), Al Wahda (UAE), Zamalek (Egypt), Jef United (Japan), Pyramids (Egypt), Maldives National Team (Maldives), Levante Azzuro (Italy), Zed FC (Egypt), Wakatake (Japan), Al Fateh (Saudi Arabia), Canada Select (Canada), Spanish Soccer School (UAE).
— The writer is a sports journalist based in the UAE