x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati recruitment on horizon for English Premier League

Manchester City youth coach notes a rise in technical level and says Al Ain team 'get stronger every year'.

Manchester City's academy have been playing at the Al Ain International Juniors Championship.
Manchester City's academy have been playing at the Al Ain International Juniors Championship.

AL AIN // The man in charge of youth development at a leading English Premier League side says it will not be long before his club sign young Emirati players.

Mark Allen, the manager of the Manchester City academy, has been in the UAE this week with his Under 17 side. While the City youngsters have beaten both Al Ain and the national side in the Al Ain International Football Juniors Championship, Allen says he has been impressed by the local talent.

"The technical level is getting better all the time and it won't be long before we decide to recruit Emirati players," he said.

Allen has made several visits to the Emirates with junior teams and believes the standard of football is progressing.

"Technically they are very good players," he said. "The UAE are a younger team, tiredness cost them the game because they are young. Al Ain are improving all the time and we play against a stronger team every year we have played in this tournament."

While he predicts it will not be long before some of the Emirati youngsters make it into the Premier League club's age group teams he warned it is hard breaking through to the top level.

"The transition from the youth level to the first team is very, very difficult," he said.

"If we take the case of Manchester City, especially now, the bar has been raised. The level is very high and their demand is to play in the Champions League every year.

"There are some boys who have a very good chance to play in the first teams if they keep focused on their football. We have age groups team from nine to 21 and only the best can reach the top level. They also need to have a little bit of luck."

Allen said the key was to focus on developing their game in as relaxed an environment as possible.

"There are some good players in all the teams and probably some of them will have a career in football, but it is a bit unfair to put pressure on a player by saying he's good, he's good, he's good," he said

City play Italy's Inter Milan today in a tournament also involving Spain's Valencia and Allen said it presented his young players with new challenges and the chance to experience different cultures.

"Remember we are into youth development," he said. "It is great to play in a different climate and also the level of competition is high.

"All the teams are very good technically. It is always a good standard for us to play, which is important for the players.

"We play in a lot of different tournaments from Under 12 to Under 21. We believe when you have a programme for development, the tournaments teach you to win. So you come to tournaments to win."

Valencia arrived in Al Ain with a squad one year younger than the players from City and Inter.

"Our players are younger than the others and as a result we were physically a little weaker," Fernando Garcia, the coach, said. "We had to come with the younger players because most of our players in the age group are in the middle of the league. However, I liked the way our team played because they showed high technical level by keeping possession most of time."

Hisham Surour, the technical supervisor for the Al Ain juniors, said: "The important thing is to provide the opportunity for as many players as possible to play against these different schools."

apassela@thenational.ae

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