Milk Cup: Spanish teen to star for Liverpool
Liverpool have brought the player tipped to become the next big name in Spanish football to the Milk Cup this week.
Striker Sergi Canos is believed to be one of the hottest talents to emerge in Barcelona's famed La Masia academy in years.
Coming through the youth ranks, 16-year-old Canos has delighted coaches and supporters alike wherever he has played. He rattled in goals for fun when he turned out for the Barcelona Cadete A side and Spanish youth teams.
"Liverpool beat a number of top clubs to sign the youngster and we are excited that he is going to be involved in the tournament," says chairman Victor Leonard.
"Our Premier competition has a quality feel to it with SC Corinthians from Brazil also expected to challenge for honours, along with Manchester United, Chile's O'Higgin's FC, CSKA Moscow and Mexico's Club America."
Also in the Reds' squad at the week-long international youth tournament is Pedro Chillivas, another emerging Spanish player.
Returning after featuring with the Junior squad last year is Seyi Ojo, who was signed from MK Dons two years ago for an undisclosed fee reported to be in six figures. Liverpool had to beat off major competition from Chelsea to sign the then 14-year-old attacking midfielder.
Left winger Harry Wilson, who has been at Anfield since he was nine, was a star of the side at last year's Milk Cup.
He has all the hallmarks of typical left winger with a great touch, ability and acceleration with the ball at his feet. He has represented Wales in the Victory Shield and at U-17 level and last season featured for Liverpool's U-18s and was a regular face in the U-16 side.
Defender Tom Brewitt has already made his mark here! After playing in last year's event, he returned to Dungannon to score England's opening goal in a 5-0 U-16 Victory Shield win over Northern Ireland at Stangmore Park.
Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers, who conducted the Milk Cup draw in Belfast earlier this year, is clearly someone who subscribes to the theory that if you are good enough you are old enough.
He handed Jerome Sinclair a senior debut as a late substitute in a League Cup tie at West Bromwich Albion last September.
In doing so, Sinclair made history as the youngest player to wear the colours of Liverpool at a fresh 16 years and six days.
Liverpool start their Premier bid with a game against County Armagh at Institute's Riverside Stadium in Drumahoe tonight while Manchester United should attract a crowd at Ballymena Showgrounds against the boys from County Antrim.
California-based Strikers FC South Coast are also hoping to be in the mix in their sixth appearance here and will be competing in both the Premier and Junior sections.
"Every year without fail, we look forward to returning to the Milk Cup," says manager Vishtap Farhadi. "It is the highlight of our season and probably the best professional youth tournament in the world.
"It provides the best opportunity for our young players to showcase their talent against the giants of Europe, Latin America and Asia. It also develops our players mentally – they get to glimpse at what it takes to be a professional player".
This year, the Premier side have been handed a challenging draw including a tie against Manchester United on Tuesday, while the Juniors will encounter a broad range of styles against sides from England, Northern Ireland and Japan.
"In my experience there is nothing more exciting for our players and staff than to play against Manchester United in the Milk Cup. As the most supported club in the tournament there is always a special atmosphere playing against them and it is even more special to play at Coleraine Showgrounds."
Strikers face TuS Altenberge at Broughshane this afternoon. The German side have competed in the Milk Cup on two previous occasions, following up their 2004 appearance in the Junior Section with a memorable run in the 2006 Premier event, defeating Mexico's Cruz Azul and Sheffield United en-route to the semi-final.
Coach Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling is hoping for more of the same this year: "The Milk Cup is a fantastic event, and well-known in Germany. Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin have all competed in it, but only ourselves and Bayern Munich have made it to the final four.
"For many of the boys it will be the highlight of their youth career, and they are very excited.
"My eldest son Kieran, who was born in Newry, is one of our coaches. He played in both 2004 and 2006, so he has told them exactly what to expect."