Felix, Lukaku, Pjanic to speak at 14th Dubai International Sports Conference
Players-turned-managers Didier Deschamps, Ryan Giggs and Simone Inzaghi will also be speaking at the Conference on December 28.
Joao Felix, one of the brightest young talents in football, will join Serie A stars Romelu Lukaku and Miralem Pjanic at the 14th Dubai International Sports Conference to discuss football’s ability to change lives.
The organising committee of the Conference, which is one of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, have also announced the participation of France’s national team manager Didier Deschamps, Wales boss Ryan Giggs and Simone Inzaghi, the manager of Italian club SS Lazio.
The star players-turned-managers will discuss “Modern Training and Technology” in the closing session of the 14th Dubai International Sports Conference, which takes place under the theme “Future Football Accelerators” on December 28 at Madinat Jumeirah Conference Centre’s Joharah Ballroom.
Organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, since 2006, the Dubai International Sports Conference has become the world’s premium annual football forum where the sport’s top stakeholders assemble for extensive discussions about the future of the Beautiful Game.
Stellar attendee list
This year’s Conference has attracted a stellar star cast as well with former Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar headlining the opening session, where he will discuss English football’s rise to the top alongside former England manager Fabio Capello and Ferran Soriano, chief executive of Manchester City Football Club and its parent company City Football Group.
For the first time, there will be an all-ladies session at the Conference where Englishwoman Lucy Bronze, UEFA Women's Player of the Year for 2019, and France captain Amandine Henry - two of the biggest stars of women’s football – will discuss the “Empowering Women in Football” alongside history-making French football referee Stephanie Frappart and Italy captain Sara Gama. ‘Futbolita’ Ash Hashim of Singapore will moderate that session.
Winner of the 2019 Golden Boy award – the award given to the best Under-21 player in Europe – Felix is just 20 years old, but has already shattered transfer records. Earlier this year, Atletico Madrid made the Portuguese, who is often compared to former Brazilian midfield maestro Kaka, their most expensive signing, paying Benfica €126 million for Antoine Griezmann’s replacement.
It was Benfica’s biggest transfer as well, and the second-highest amount paid for a teenager after Kylian Mbappe’s €145m move from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain. Overall, it is the fourth biggest transfer in football history.
Felix, who made his Portugal national team debut in March this year, received 332 votes to beat Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho (175 votes) and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz (75 votes) for the Golden Boy award, whose previous winners include Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero and Mbappe.
Lukaku, meanwhile, is one of the top strikers in the game today, boasting clubs like Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United and Inter Milan on his resume. Still 26, he is already Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 52 goals from 84 appearances.
Joining Everton on loan from Chelsea in the summer of 2013, Lukaku made an immediate impact, scoring the winning goal against West Ham on his debut and he has not looked back since. Helping Everton reach a club-record points tally in his first season, Lukaku was signed by the Toffees on a permanent deal in 2014.
After four seasons at Everton, Lukaku moved to Man United in 2017, for an initial fee of £75 million and in the summer of 2019, he joined Inter for a fee reported to be a club-record €80 million. Inter boss Antonio Conte has long been an admirer of Lukaku and wanted to sign him as Chelsea boss, but finally made it during the 2019-20 season with Inter.
Pjanic also plays in the Italian Serie A, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus, and is one of the top stars of Bosnia and Herzegovina national team. Starting his professional career at Metz, he moved to Lyon in 2008 before signing for Roma in 2011, where he came to be recognized as one of the best midfielders in Serie A.
In 2016, Pjanic joined Juventus and has been an integral member of the team since, winning three Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia, and being named in the Serie A Team of the Year for 2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017–18 seasons. He was also named in the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season for his role in Juventus's run to the final.