Over the weekend, news broke that during the summer transfer window, when hundreds of players are up for sale at the right price, the extremely wealthy Real Madrid — one of the five richest clubs in the world — scooped up a 7-year-old.
The signing of Leonel Angel Coira stirred up more noise than the $61 million signing of 22-year-old Argentinian Javier Pastore to PSG and Kun Aguero — Diego Maradona's son-in-law — to Manchester City.
Some people were outraged that a club is trying to one-up the competition by signing a player who barely knows how to spell his own name. My guess is those are the same people who think this youngin' is going to be lining up next to Cristiano Ronaldo, ready to take on Barcelona in front of 80,000 people.
Calm down, because if this kid even blossoms into a star, he still won't reach the big boys' pitch until around 16, which is not that rare in the soccer world.
Little Leo's idol, fellow pint-sized Argentine Lionel Messi, was playing club soccer at age 5 for Grandoli, a club that his father coached. In 1995, between the ages of 8 and 9, Messi joined a larger club, Newell's Old Boys, one of the most famous clubs in Argentina. Messi was bought up by Barcelona just a few years later to join their youth program, and premiered in the starting XI at 16.
Another example, English star Wayne Rooney was signed to Everton's premier youth camp at the age of 9 after showcasing tremendous skills in various youth leagues. Rooney flew through their youth leagues, playing in the U-19's at 15 years old, eventually making the first team shortly thereafter.
Coming closer to home, over the weekend, the New England Revolution featured a 16-year-old substitute named Diego Fagundez who shined in a 3-2 loss. Fagundez was brought on in the second half and drew a penalty kick before scoring a goal of his own. He was the first Revs' homegrown player to appear for the team, hailing from Leominster, Mass.
Although 16 is a lot older than seven, if this little Leo has any ounce of potential in him (and if you're getting scouted by Real Madrid before you can find it on a map, you must), then he is in exactly the right place. Name a better place for an aspiring soccer player than one of the most prestigious youth camps in the world.
That's right, you can't. If it's okay to enroll children into acting at younger ages, then why can't a 7-year-old hone his skills under the watchful eye of Real Madrid. No one is complaining about how the youth camp affected Iker Casillas, Real Madrid's starting goalie and recent World Cup victor, who started in the youth camp at age 9.
It also appears the kid may be a little more mature on the pitch than his age lets on, as he prefers to "provide the pass" rather than score. Go ask your 7-year-old if they'd rather pass or score.
The fact that people are blasting his family for doing this is beyond me. They're giving their child the best opportunity to succeed at what he does, and are helping him along the way. When Coira was discovered by scouts, it was while he was playing for his local youth club team while his father coached.
And the family isn't cashing in on their child prodigy, as they receive no compensation from the signing other than "pay for transport."
While the fortunes of little Leo are uncertain, this move sets himself up best to live his dream, which is what we want all children to strive for.
"[My] dream is to meet Messi, play in the first division with Madrid and for Argentina in the World Cup."
He's well on his way.
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