x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Benaiges starts work on bringing Barcelona blueprint to Wasl

The man who helped shape the careers of superstars such as Lionel Messi has outlined his plans to make the coaching system internationally competitive.

Albert Benaiges hopes to produce a conveyor belt of young talents that will eventually work their way into the Al Wasl first team.
Albert Benaiges hopes to produce a conveyor belt of young talents that will eventually work their way into the Al Wasl first team.

DUBAI // The man who helped shape the careers of football superstars such as Lionel Messi has outlined his plans to make the Al Wasl coaching system internationally competitive in five to 10 years.

Albert Benaiges started work on Saturday as the director of the Wasl academy after spending nearly two decades in a similar role at Barcelona's famed La Masia.

And the Spaniard hopes to employ the same techniques in Dubai that turned out a conveyor belt of talent for the Catalan giants.

"This is by no means an impossible dream," Benaiges said. "In Catalonia we also took charge of the academy for a small team and worked hard applying what we did at La Masia.

"Ten years later, the team produced seven players who went on to play professional football in Spain and Europe."

While the appointment of Diego Maradona as the Wasl head coach gained international headlines, a move made in February to convince Benaiges to leave Spain for the UAE could prove equally significant for the club's future.

As the technical director of Barcelona's youth system at La Masia he is credited with moulding the careers of players such as Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Sergio Busquets.

"While none of this comes easy, anything is achievable through hard work and dedication," Benaiges said.

"We plan to shape and mould legends among a talented pool of skilled players who will then move up in the academy to play for the first team for Al Wasl, and ultimately represent in the UAE national team."

Benaiges, who has bought his assistants Antonio Amor Fernandez and Juan Carlos Buno with him from La Masia, met with his new staff at Wasl headquarters on his first day of work at the weekend.

One of his first tasks is to teach his training methods - which he implemented at Barcelona - to the existing coaching staff at Wasl.

He also shared videos from the training camps with Messi, the World Player of the Year, as a 10 year old. Wasl's ideology, said Benaiges, will be on ball control and passing, speed and movement.

"Above all I stress discipline, manners and respect coupled with a healthy lifestyle and strong academics," Benaiges said. "We are on our way to building holistically superior individuals, and that can only come by giving 100 per cent because excellence allows for no less."

The academy will officially welcome its young members on August 1, with renovated facilities and several new pitches.

"We are very fortunate to have the likes of Benaiges join our ranks," said Fahid Khamis, a member of the Wasl board. "His history is quite the recommendation letter in itself, bringing with him years of experience and recognition."