Some time ago I wrote a story about Villarreal Virginia, a tie-up between Villarreal and a well-established youth soccer program in Northern Virginia. And there have been references to other Villarreal academies, but today the club gave a press conference where they really unveiled the concept and explained exactly what is taking place.
First, I don’t think it is coincidence that Sr. José Manuel Llaneza was a key man at this press conference. Sr. Llaneza is coming up on 25 years with Villarreal—he predates even Sr. Roig, in fact the latter has said he felt really comfortable investing in Villarreal CF because of Llaneza, and the two have been close buddies for years.
Essentially what this project is about is exporting Villarreal’s philosophy of youth football and development to other countries, working with official partner academies and affiliated schools. As Sr. Llaneza explained, Villarreal is essentially selling their methodology and approach to interested groups overseas, as well as emphasizing integration with the local community and providing opportunities to play that has always been an important value for the club. It’s something we can export with great success. In 2018-19, Villarreal has been involved with 24 of these projects: 9 in the US, 12 in South Korea, and one each in Australia, Japan and China.
Villarreal coaches visit to train coaches and players in the partner academy or school, and the club provides them access to our training methods and methodologies. And the opportunity is there for players to be invited to visit Vila-real and participate more directly in the Vila-real system. Of course, Villarreal hopes to also use this program to identify some young footballers who can end up permanently joining our academy setup in Vila-real if they wish.
We currently have Mukwelle Akale from the US in our B team, Kenne Kessler from the US in our ladies’ side, and Ahn Juhneyuk from South Korea in our C team. Hopefully more will follow!