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NPFL can produce next Messi with proper youth structure – La Liga boss

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Mr Javier del Rio, Managing Director, La Liga Nigeria says the La Liga is working closely with the Nigerian League Management Company (LMC) to establish a proper youth structure for Nigerian clubs and produce world class footballers.

Del Rio, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday, said this was crucial to developing the league and producing world class footballers for Nigeria.

He said that the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) was capable of producing the next Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta (graduates of Barcelona academy) if a proper youth system was established with the NPFL clubs.

The La liga boss who stressed the need for grassroots development said Nigeria had a lot of talent but the problem was how to discover them early, harness and mould them into world class stars.

He explained that La Liga in conjunction with the LMC which organises the NPFL was trying to replicate the Spanish La liga model in Nigeria in a bid to develop the league and make it more attractive.

“Since our partnership came in 2016, several workshops have taken place that have helped set up a proper roadmap for the league.

“We are also helping the clubs develop a strong youth structure, so as to develop their young players into professionals like we have in Spain.

“I will give you an example, if you see players like Iniesta and Messi, they became who they are because they have been playing for Barcelona since they were 11, 12 years old.

“So the key to getting very good players is to start training them when they are very young and this is what we are looking at in Nigeria,’’ he said.

He said that La Liga would continue to organise coaching clinics for Nigerian youth coaches and the annual U-15 NPFL/La Liga tournament which produced some players for the U-17 national team.

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He expressed optimism that with proper organisation, funding, television coverage and youth system development, the NPFL would soon begin to rank among the best leagues in Africa.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the The NPFL-LaLiga partnership was signed in 2016 and has since recorded a number of exchange projects between the two leagues, including a tour of Spain by an NPFL All-Star team.

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