Following Chelsea’s transfer embargo for inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract at Lens, rival clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Manchester City have all come under scrutiny for the way they have attracted young starlets to join their academies.
This gave us an idea, and over the next couple of weeks we will be taking a look at some of the young, talented foreign footballers who currently ply their trade in the academy or reserve team at your club who may develop into the next star of the Premier League. Today we start with Liverpool’s Finnish striker Lauri Dalla Valle.
The Finn began his career in JIPPO’s youth team where his talent quickly shone through and Inter Milan snapped up the youngster at the tender age of 14. However, his stay at the Nerazzurri was short-lived, lasting only three months before he returned to JIPPO. The youngster, unsurprisingly, was homesick and found adapting to his new school and a new language difficult. He quickly settled back into the local youth team and averaged a goal every other game.
He made his debut in the first team in 2007 only to suffer an early career setback after a serious ankle break resulted in him being out of the first team for several months. Despite only making eight first team appearances, his impressive form led to Chelsea making an inquiry about his availability. Yet it was the Merseysiders who made a move for Dalla Valle and, following a trial with Liverpool, he signed for the Reds in November 2007. An alleged signing on fee of €0.5-1 million was paid.
Many at the Melwood Academy believe that the Finn could be the heir apparent to Fernando Torres. The pair share many similarities - both are blonde and are strikers who perform best when spearheading the attack. Dalla Valle is quick and full of energy, the right footed striker having the knack of being at the right place at the right time in the box whether that means he scores goal from distance or able to bang the ball into the net from a goalmouth scramble.
In addition, he works hard for the team and closes down defenders to alleviate pressure on the defence and midfield. He is also strong and physically well-rounded, allowing him to provide an outlet for his team as he is able to retain possession with his back to goal.
Dalla Valle was promoted from the academy to the reserves in June 2009. His form in the next couple of seasons will be vital if he is to break into the first team squad. Knowing Rafa Benitez, he will be cautious in how he utilises the front man but if looked after in the right way he could lead Liverpool’s forward line for many years to come.