These Amazing Soccer Players Open To All Pro Offers Involving Mortal Kombat, Skittles
European soccer has a marvelous youth system, in which kids are recruited as young as eight or nine with modest fees and organized in youth academies, where they're taught the finer points. Some things can't be taught, however. Here's a match between teams with the FC Barcelona Juniors, as little Messi and Suarez get jiggy with it in front of the net. This is actually rather inspiring.
Most of the youth academies recruit locally, but many of the big clubs, such as Arsenal, Barça, Real Madrid, and Chelsea, recruit everywhere -- if you're a kid in Greenland who can kick a ball you're not going to go unnoticed.
Of course the awesomeness of this system is open to debate. Many find it a bit creepy that a corporate giant soccer club such as Portugal's Benfica can sign players whom they can pay off totally in Lego blocks. How young is too young? There is actually no age limit -- in 2011, Real Madrid signed Leonel Angel Coira, an Argentine prodigy who was barely seven years old. And the kid only signed after rejecting another offer by Atletico Madrid.
In 2013, Dutch club VVV Venlo signed an 18-month-old boy to a 10-year contract after seeing a video of him kicking a ball. That was viewed as being mostly for publicity, however. At least it was until the truck filled with coloring books and bathtub toys pulled up in his parents' driveway.
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