Soccer has shown once again how out of touch the sport really is with reality. News stories broke on Aug. 8 that reported Spanish club Real Madrid has signed a seven-year-old Argentinean boy, who lives in Madrid, and he’ll start training in a youth academy on Sept. 6.

The boy, named Leonel Angel Coira is a fan of fellow countryman Lionel Messi, who plays for Madrid’s arch enemy Barcelona. Messi himself was signed as a 13 year old and debuted for the senior La Liga club when he was just 16. He’s now regarded as one of the best players in the world, at least at club level. He often struggles while playing for his country, but has been named the world player of the year twice.

As with most youngsters, Coira has dreams, which are to meet Messi, play with Madrid in Spain’s first division and to represent Argentina in the World Cup. He may just live them all out, but we’re not going to know if they come true for at least 10 more years.

But the trend of signing players this young is very disturbing. And the worst part of the transaction is that Real Madrid basically signed the boy because their cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid were interested in him. It was more a case of signing him before rival teams got a hold of him.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to develop your own players, but they should be brought in at a reasonable age, not as young as seven. However, in soccer, everything is ruled by the almighty dollar. If teams can lure youngsters into their youth systems they can be developed a lot cheaper than buying them when they’re older and established players.

Therefore teams are taking players on no matter how old they are to save millions of dollars in transfer fees down the road. In fact, if a player such as Coira turns out to be as good as Messi he could actually be sold for millions. Considering that Coira’s family doesn’t receive any money other than transportation fees, teams can make a killing by selling players after they sign them to pro contracts at the legal age.

Madrid saw the youngster in action and invited him to play with a team of Under-9 players. They then became anxious to sign him when word got out that Atletico was also interested. Naturally, Coira opted for Real as they’re one of the most popular teams in the world, with Cristiano Ronaldo their top player .

Coira’s father Miguel, said he trusts the club and knows they’ll take care of his son. But while many fans are opposed to teams signing players at such an early age, it turns out that Real has signed boys younger than Coira in the past, but a club spokesman wouldn’t say how young. He admitted that the team will sign kids at any age as long as they show excellent talent and stand out from their peers.

Signing young children isn’t anything new in soccer as most teams have youth academies. Barcelona runs an academy where dozens of youngsters from the age of 11 train and live. Of course, the majority of them never make it as pro players and some become tired of the whole routine after a year or two.

At the moment, Coira is signed for a year and if both parties are happy it can be extended for another year and so on. When a player reaches 16 years of age he can be signed to a pro contract. Coira’s older brother plays for Real Valladolid in Spain’s second division.

Things could turn out fine for Coira and his current dreams could come true, but at the age of seven he could very well dream about something completely different by the time he’s eight.


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