The coaches and scouts who first spotted Rooney, Torres, Messi, Kaka, Schweinsteiger, Tevez and Robben share their stories of discovery
Bob Pendleton, the Everton scout who spotted Wayne Rooney when he was an eight-year-old with Copplehouse
You always hope to discover someone who'll make the first team but what Wayne has achieved is incredible. He has matured so much. When I look at him now he reminds me of Roy Keane, a winner and a leader, and while as an Evertonian it would have been nice to see us win something with him in the team, his move to Manchester United has been fantastic for him. He deserves it and it's nice to think I have helped somewhere along the line.
I still vividly remember the first time I saw young Wayne. It was at the Long Lane playing fields, pitch No2, and young Wayne was eight. I've been involved with the Walton and Kirkdale Junior League since 1977. I'm now the fixture and registration secretary and that day I had to have a word with Copplehouse Juniors because they owed raffle fees of 4.50.
As I was asking their manager, Big Nev, about the money I noticed this little striker trying to do something different every time he got the ball. When he got the ball, the ball belonged to him, and when he passed the ball, he always wanted it back. He was eight and the other players were all 10, which wouldn't be allowed now, but he was scoring goals for fun. Wayne had turned the season around for Copplehouse and Big Nev was devastated when I asked about him. He didn't want to lose his best player, not even to Everton.
Fortunately Wayne's mum and dad were watching the game so I strolled over and invited them to bring their son to Bellefield, Everton's training ground, later that week. It's a big help to a scout if the parents support the team he's working for and thankfully Wayne senior and Jeanette are massive Evertonians. They were made up when I invited them to Bellefield. We were in.
Before they arrived on the Thursday night I went to see Ray Hall, the youth academy director at Everton, and asked him to sign this eight-year-old on the spot. It was an unusual request as Ray hadn't seen him play but Ray showed a lot of trust in me and made a huge fuss of young Wayne and his dad when they arrived. They went up to Ray's office and I can still remember big Wayne telling his lad to sit up straight in the chair and to make a good impression. Then Ray came in and deliberately left his door open. I knew he was up to something. The next thing Joe Royle, who was manager at the time and one of big Wayne's boyhood heroes, walked past and Ray invited him in. Joe was great, really friendly, although he misheard young Wayne when he asked him where he was from and told him everything he knew about Toxteth rather than Croxteth. Then we signed Wayne Rooney.
You could tell he was something special immediately. Coaches who had been around for years were all talking about him, referees would ring me up after games to talk about what they had just seen and even older players at Everton were lifted when he trained with them. I think big Wayne always believed his son would make it. Other dads would stand on the sideline shouting and screaming but Wayne's dad never did. You would have a good laugh with him before kick-off, big Wayne is full of jokes, but once the game started he would be focused on young Wayne's performance. Jeanette was more protective but even at eight years old Wayne didn't need much protection.
I've no doubt he is going to captain Manchester United and England.
He will thrive on that and he will lead by example. I just hope he stays clear of injury this summer and takes England all the way. I'm made up for him.
Abraham Garcia, the Atltico Madrid youth team coach who first worked with Fernando Torres when he was 15
When Fernando Torres scored the winning goal at Euro 2008, not only was I delighted as a football fan and a Spaniard but I felt enormously proud to have worked with him from the age of 15 until he made his first-team debut at Atltico Madrid in 2001. I have so much admiration for Fernando and was delighted that he had achieved such a remarkable feat: he had scored the winning goal for Spain's under-16s, under-19s and now for the senior side in the European Championship. Every time Spain had won 1-0 and every time he had got the goal. He deserved it.
I remember the first time I saw him very clearly. He surprised me: he was barely 15 years old and yet he was already very physically imposing. He was a great athlete, tall and strong and quick. His physical condition was incredible. He was very much a modern footballer. In modern football you need to have speed and power and he had it right from the start. I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of kids who have made it as first division professionals over 30 of them but you could see that Fernando was special. He was elegant in his running, like a sprinter.
Talent is innate and you could see that Fernando had it but there is always a chance that players won't make it. A lot depends on their attitude and their mentality. Our job as coaches is to make the players see that with sacrifice, consistency and effort you can make things happen. It's not enough just to have talent. Fernando grasped that right from the start. In fact, he had that attitude anyway. He was never happy 100% with himself and kept on pushing. He listened and he learned and he kept on practising. He still does, in fact.
He was quiet and reasonably shy but very determined. He competed with kids who were older than him but it was never a problem, either on the field or off it. He was strong enough and mentally tough enough to compete and he didn't let himself get led astray either.
Fernando doesn't have exquisite individual technique but football is not just about that. You need to be able to apply your talent and use it properly. He had to work on improving his left foot, especially when it came to control and finishing. But that is a partial reading of his limitations because there is nothing to say that you must use your left foot if there is an alternative and he has proved that he is one of the best. There are lots of ways to score goals and he finds them. He has improved technically. And he has scored plenty of beautiful goals too.
What Fernando has achieved with Liverpool is admirable. He is improving and the English game suits him he has grown stronger because so much more physical contact is allowed; he enjoys that side of the game and with space in front of him he is lethal. When he plays for Spain he has to drop deep and use space more judiciously. But he can do that too. He gets better and better.
Guillermo Hoyos, Lionel Messi's youth coach at Barcelona when he stepped off the plane from Argentina
I first met Messi on a trip to Japan. I had just joined Barcelona as youth manager and we met at the airport going to a youth tournament. Our first match was against Feyenoord and we were losing 1-0. In the second half Messi turned the match around, he just took control of the game and carried the whole team on his shoulders: we won 3-1 without him scoring but totally turning the game around on his own.
We bonded from the start. I was the only foreigner working at the club at the time and I think the fact that we were both from the same country helped. I remember one of the first things I asked him was which team did he support. He said "Newell's" and we started talking about the clubs back home. That was the start of a friendship which quietly goes on to this day.
Football-wise he was the most similar to Maradona I had ever seen and I said as much. I chose the comparison because I wanted to make sure his name transcended at the time no one knew Lionel. And I had played with Diego in the 1979 youth squad for Argentina, so I knew exceptional youth internationals: I remember clearly doing an interview for an Argentinian paper in 2003 and saying: "He is going to be the best player in the world."
The very first training session I knew he was extraordinary. I've coached players like Pedro, Pique, Suarez and Busquet but Leo was out of the mould. Very soon it became obvious to me he was ready to move up the club ranks. I felt Lionel was wasting his time training with us. Not that he wouldn't improve or didn't have things to learn but I felt he was ready to train with the first team. The view in Europe was that he was too young and shouldn't be playing against "men" but, where we come from, kids make their debut for the first team at a very young age if they're ready. I did at 16 and Lionel was clearly tough and able to take the tackles and hacks even from bigger players; in fact he could dribble past them.
I made him captain. He was a reserved boy, never one to speak much, but he's not shy at all like people think and he has a very strong sense of teamwork and very ingrained notions of friendship and solidarity.
He is able to generate trust and confidence in a team without needing to say much I think of him as a silent leader.
Beyond how Argentina will do this World Cup, Leo will be the top player, I'm sure. He hasn't had much exposure to football in Argentina and a whole team needs to be built it’s not just Leo alone. But football in Argentina is an industry and today the president of that industry is Lionel Messi.
Carlos de Lorenzi, So Paulo's youth coach when he spotted Kak, then a 12-year-old prodigy
Sometimes I wonder how many times I would wake up sweating had I passed up the chance to take Kak on board after seeing him playing in a big, non-competitive kids' tournament in the outskirts of So Paulo. Make no mistake: he was only 12 but still had a lot of skill and, above all, initiative. The only thing that did not make me jump straight away was the fact that the boy was quite skinny. But we brought him in, thankfully. Soon we realised that, alongside the talent, Kak was also full of initiative. We went to a tournament once and one of our games went to a shoot-out. Even though he was the tiniest and youngest in our under-15 side, guess who was the first to step forward to take a penalty?
In our profession spotting talent is fundamental but, even when you reckon there is a rough diamond in front of you, it still gives you goosebumps when the kids make it at the top level. It could be easy for me to say that one could see all the way that Kak would end up being one of the world's top players and even win the FIFA award but in fact he surpassed everybody's expectations because players like him do not show up every week. It's remarkable that Kak has achieved so much in the game without becoming a prima donna. Right after the World Cup we met and laughed together about the old times.
The only case I can remember of a kid who would basically smell of World Cup material was Ronaldinho, whom I saw while working in southern Brazil. Gosh, he used to tear the other kids apart the difference
in talent was brutal. There is no way I buy these theories associating talent to mere work-rate. Genetics do play a part, although these natural gifts can be squandered. That's why it's so important to worry about more than immediate results. Kak had other coaches scratching their heads thanks to his frail physique and some even suggested he should try following his father's career as an engineer but So Paulo kept believing.
Nowadays I am working for Luverdense, a third division side in central Brazil. I have already found some interesting kids there but since I am the manager now I have to keep it secret.
Hermann Gerland, who worked as Bayern Munich's youth coordinator from 1990-1995 and 2001-2009, on Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian was one of Germany's brightest skiing talents when he came to us as a 13-year-old from 1860 Rosenheim but football quickly won out. Five days a week he would get up at six, take a train to school, then a bus to Munich to train with us. By half-eleven was back home. He didn't mind.
I saw him play quite often as a youngster; he stood out. Things became very serious when he joined the Bayern Munich academy (and boarding school) and played in the "B" youth final 2001 in Dortmund.
I felt that he didn't quite show enough at the time, at 15 or 16. He didn't recognise the extent of his own talent. He wasn't lazy, you can't say that. But it took him a long time to realise just how much potential he had. Later, when he played in the first youth team, I saw him more and more. At 17 he was already established in our amateur side. I wanted him to improve gradually. Unlike others he would never let a bad game take away from his confidence. He had the soul of a fighter.
At the time we would line up on the right or left side of midfield. I remember that the youth teams always had Wednesdays off but Basti never took a day off. He was always on the pitch. He was obsessed and eager to learn, and you have to be like that in order to succeed. His talent was exceptional. He had the stamina, he had technique, he had a good shot, only his heading was a problem. I sent him to train with a pendulum for hours in order to improve that side of his game.
As a teenager he was a bit of joker. At times he didn't do that well but that's normal for a youngster at his age. And in his first year as a professional he sprang one or two surprises off the pitch [when a night guard caught Schweinsteiger and a girl in the training complex Jacuzzi].
But I like this type of player. He's always in a good mood, friendly and happy. I also don't mind that he can be a bit mischievous off the pitch. We at Bayern want players with character who are clever and bold in the game; we don't want streamlined pros.
He did some stupid things when he came through as a young professional. But I knew he had his heart in the right place. I liked the fact that he would go and see matches of the amateur or youth teams in his spare time. I was less happy about his penchant for pulling up the socks over his knees, however. I thought he looked like a woman. He grew out of it eventually.
It's wonderful to see him play so well these days, to see him win all these titles. In his position, defensive midfield next to Mark van Bommel, Basti has become world-class. In 2008 he was a runner-up in the European Championship; in 2006 he was in the side that won the World Cup third-place play-off. Maybe he'll be able to make the next step in South Africa. He's got the goods to achieve that. I'd be really pleased if he did because he's a lovely guy. People ask me if I'm proud of "my" players. I tell them that pride is the wrong word: when you're working with exceptional talents, it's your duty to make them succeed. I'd say I have done my bit to mould Basti. I've been his guide along the way. But I'm only one of many people who have helped him. I don't want the spotlight; others have done just as much.
Barend Beltman, Arjen Robben's trainer for five years (age 11 till 16)
I was his trainer for four years. He joined FC Groningen when he was just shy of his 12th birthday. To set the record straight, no one individual can be deemed 'discoverer' of Arjen Robben; he joined our club at a showcase day for talented pupils. I just helped him a little bit during his time with the club. I am not going to take credit and say I told him how to play; his intuition and ingrained sense of play were so good that I just enjoyed the ride.
One immediately saw the vast potential of the boy: a real lefty who never scored an ugly goal. I only worried about the strength of his body. Would this tiny boy be strong enough to make it in professional football? From the beginning he was really good, sometimes exceptionally good, or downright amazing.
His third year in our youth academy wasn't an easy one. He had always been a tiny boy. Really tiny. All of a sudden he began to grow and his back became injured in the process. It was as if his body couldn't cope with the power generated as a result of the growth. Arjen couldn't play for weeks, and when he did play it was brief.
When he finally returned to the team, he tried to do too much on his own. Arjen isn't egoistical, not in the least. It was most likely because he enjoys the game so much, he just wants to go for it, and he's always in attack mode. He showed resilience during these tough times. When things go wrong physically, he always fights his way back.
Arjen was driven and determined at a young age. He was always on time, never late. But one Friday afternoon he showed up 15 minutes past the start of practice. I asked him what was going on. "We were at the market square, having fun", he said. There were some girls with him and his friends, so I asked, "Was she worth it?" "Yes, trainer, she was", he told me. I told him to get his gear and join the training session.
At his wedding, I heard the woman he met that day was now his wife and mother of his children. Bernadien is her name.
I vividly remember a game in Enschede, played on May 13th, 2000. At half time he had scored six or seven goals and said to me, "Trainer, I've never scored ten goals in a game." "Go ahead and do it", I told him. After he scored his ninth, he zipped past a couple of players, and headed towards the goal. All of a sudden he passed the ball to a player who almost never scored. That play exemplified his true character: a sweet and nice boy and a team player. When he returned to the sidelines I told him, "Now go for ten". Of course, he made the tenth goal. Throughout the game the dugout reverberated. We found out later that a fireworks factory exploded in Enschede, just a couple miles down the road. The explosion had been shaking our dugout. 23 people died that day as a result of the explosion.
I do follow him, but from a distance. I am not the type of guy who keeps scores or collects news clippings. When I see him, he's always kind. He hasn't changed much since that time and is still the same down-to-earth individual he was when he joined FC Groningen at age 11.
Is he going to be one of the stars at the World Cup? I don't know. He is one of the best players in the tournament and he'll definitely show the world things we'll show to our kids 20 years from now. Is that enough for Team Orange to make it to the semis or the final? That depends on the other 10 players, our opponents, or sheer luck. I am going to enjoy the matches, that's for sure. I just hope Arjen enjoys
the journey and plays with candour.
Ramon Maddoni, Carlos Tevez's youth coach at Club ParqueI first saw him playing for a small neighborhood team called Santa Magdalena.
He was nine. I trained the team playing against him and after a few minutes I knew I wanted him. Terribly impressive player: Rhythm, technique, aggression and he was difficult to mark. I was at Argentinos Juniors at the time and I wanted to take him to our kiddy side but he didn't want to come. He wanted to play in his neighborhood team.
Then, in 1996 I moved to Boca and I insisted. "No, Ramon, Not to Argentinos," he said. By then we always had the same conversation. "I'm at Boca now," I said and he said "Ok. Boca, yes." So he joined me.
His whole family were Boca fans, and so is he really fanatical – so he was happy to come to Club Parque, which is the club I run where we train kids before they're old enough to properly sign for a club.
He came on a trip to Brazil with me and I think pretty much after that he signed for Boca's youth scheme. You can join Club Parque without signing for a club but my deal with Boca is if the club signs a kid he trains at Club Parque for two years. Carlitos started both pretty much simultaneously.
Every Monday he used to stay and have dinner at Club Parque after training. It's a tradition I've maintained coming up to 30 years now on Monday evening we all gather at the club caf and everyone is welcome to join in. Carlitos ate with us every Monday and I bumped into him recently by chance and he said he wants to find the time to come back on a Monday to eat with us.
I knew the minute I saw him he was special. The first think I look for in a kid is technique does he know how to play football? Aged 9 Carlitos had very good technique: he knew how to stop the ball with his chest, how to caress it, was able to use both legs, and had control of both inside and outside of the feet.
There is a lot you can improve and work on, but his rhythm and aggression came from within. We worked on a lot of areas: heading, shooting with his left leg (because he was right-footed), lots of things. Some boys
are born knowing how to play football but with work you can learn to head with your forehead, to control in a small space Carlitos had it all inside him but he needed work to evolve and develop his full potential.
I followed him everywhere before he agreed to come and train with him. I had a strong sense he was the player of the future my intuition told me not just that he would play for Boca's first team but for Argentina too.
I've had lots of Argentina internationals come through Club Parque as kids: Sorin, Placente, Jonas Gutirrez, Cambiasso, Riquelme, Gago, Coloccini I know an extraordinary kid when I see one. Carlitos was different. Aged 10, 11, he stood out. I always laugh when I remember a match he played against us. He scored twice and came right up to me and started dancing to celebrate them. I just cracked up and said to him: "Dance all you want, mate. You'll be dancing for me soon enough."
I have no doubt he will be among the best players of the World Cup. We still have to see what kind of team Maradona builds, but Carlitos has a fire that will see him through wherever he goes, wherever he plays. I follow his career with joy he has been amazing all season with Manchester City and you can see the fans always enjoy his game. He's won the hearts of the Brazilians and the English not bad for a boy who didn't want to quit Santa Magdalena.
© Guardian News and Media 2010
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup