Rising star Tom Rogic has bypassed the chance to train with Barcelona and meet its former coach Pep Guardiola to instead hone his fitness and sharpness with Central Coast for the new A-League season.
The 19-year-old playmaker and 2010 Nike Football Academy graduate was invited to Spain as an ambassador by Nike to attend a ceremony to unveil the 18 players named by Guardiola as part of ‘The Chance’ program which first discovered Rogic and propelled him to a three-year contract offer from Reading.
But Rogic, who beat of 75,000 hopefuls to land one of eight academy places in the UK and went on to shine for the Mariners last season after being denied a work permit in England, reluctantly declined the invitation after it became clear the timing would mean missing some of the Mariners pre-season.
The proposed trip would have seen Rogic head to Spain on August 17 for the unveiling of ‘The ‘Chance’ team to play in several exhibition games and offered a tantalising opportunity to get up close and personal with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta on the training track.
Rogic’s Spanish-speaking agent Andy Bernal, the former Reading and Socceroos defender who went on to become David Beckham’s personal assistant for most of his spell with Real Madrid, told The World Game: “It was difficult from a time frame point of view for Tom to go. But if you miss one A-League pre-season game for a training with Barcelona’s A team that isn’t bad.
“He would have learned a lot but it wasn’t to be and it’s no major drama. I left it up to Tom and he decided not to go over for just three or four days.”
“As The Chance winner previously Tom is already on Nike billboards and posters in many places and to go over a meet Pep Guardiola and Gerard Pique, and be on stage in Barcelona making a speech to some of the younger boys coming through the program doesn’t make you a great player.
“Obviously training with Barcelona would have been a different story, and that is something I was organising through my contacts there, but that would have required a 10-day time frame.
“For Tom now, he needs a big-pre-season because he has never had one before and he needs to get into the Socceroos very quickly. The decision was his not to go.”
‘The Chance’ offers uncontracted players around the glove the opportunity to win deals at clubs and showcase their talents and it was the pathway to prominence for former Australian futsal ace Rogic who is certain to return to Europe with a club contract if he builds on last season’s exploits.
Canberra-raised Rogic is contracted with the Mariners until the end of the forthcoming A-League campaign, with Bernal adding: “If it wasn’t for the visa problems Tom had in England he’d definitely be in an EPL squad this year with Reading winning promotion. But if he continues to develop his time will definitely come.”
In-demand Mat Ryan has opted for Belgian powerhouse Club Brugge over Denmark's Randers as he heads to Europe to embark on the next stage of his burgeoning career.