Zak Gilsenan, 9, Joins FC Barcelona, 'Irish Lionel Messi' Tipped as Future StarMany of today's world soccer stars honed their skills at the FC Barcelona youth academy, and that trend looks like it will continue well into the future.

Zak Gilsenan, 9, has accepted an offer to join the famous Barcelona youth set-up. Dubbed
"the Irish Messi," Gilsenan will get the chance to develop under the watchful eyes of the same folks who trained the real Lionel Messi, according to the Mail.

"I know Zak is young to be doing this but kids are like a sponge at this age," Gilsenan's father Stephen Gilsenan said. "People say we are mad but in Barcelona he will be educated in the best footballing techniques. All we can do is go and see how it develops.

"We know it's ruthless over there. We don't want him turned into a machine, we just want him to enjoy it."

Gilsenan earned a spot at the prestigious academy (commonly known as "La Masia") by scoring seven goals in a trial game in Spain.

"One of their former players saw him playing in Oz [Australia] and recommended him," the elder Gilsenan said. "They offered Zak a trial in May and it was a great experience. It consisted of over 400 boys from all over the world. He was asked back in June when it was cut down to 90.

"Then in a match between the top 16 players, Zak just ran riot and scored seven goals. He was phenomenal. Then we heard back two weeks ago and they offered him a spot."

Barca's gain is Tottenham's loss. The North London club thought it had the inside track on the player many are tipping to be a future star, but Gilsenan chose Barcelona instead. The player and his family will move to Barcelona, Spain to support Zak in his adventure.

The Messi family made the same decision when Lionel was 13, and we all know how that turned out. Messi became Barcelona's all-time leading scorer and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

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