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PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho: the rebellious ‘rascal’ turned superstar

Atlético Madrid youth coach Jesús Marcos has spoken of how United youngster Garnacho developed into one of world soccer’s brightest stars.

Atlético Madrid youth coach Jesús Marcos has spoken of how United youngster Garnacho developed into one of world soccer’s brightest stars.
LINDSEY PARNABYAFP

Manchester United starlet Alejandro Garnacho, who could feature for the Red Devils against Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, was only 15 years old when Atlético de Madrid realised how much potential he had, but off-field problems led to the club hand-picking one of their best youth coaches, Jesús Adolfo Marcos, to work with him before he left for Old Trafford in 2020.

Alejandro Garnacho: “the best young player at Atlético Madrid”

Marcos coached Atleti’s under-19 team up until he was handed a special assignment which would see him switch to the under-16s, precisely because that was who a very young Garnacho was playing for. Speaking to the English media, Marcos explained: “They wanted me to coach the best young player at the club. That was my mission, and at the same time my biggest challenge”.

Alejandro Garnacho scored in United's last game against West Ham in the FA Cup.
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Alejandro Garnacho scored in United's last game against West Ham in the FA Cup.Marc AtkinsGetty

“Smart but troublesome”

Marcos reveals how he and the club quickly made changes to aid Garnacho’s development: “Alejandro was a ‘street kid’, from a neighbourhood in Getafe (a city on the outskirts on Madrid). We immediately decided to move him to the hotel at the academy, because he wasn’t a good student. He was smarter than the rest of the boys, but he became troublesome...he was a bit of a rascal and would cause trouble inside the hotel”.

Not especially unusual for a 15-year-old boy, some would say...: “He would sneak food into his room, sweets and things like that, and he would hide his phone and be on it until late at night. He was also the first in his group to break the rules!”

Garnacho has opted to play for Argentina, where his mother is from, rather than Spain, the country of his birth.
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Garnacho has opted to play for Argentina, where his mother is from, rather than Spain, the country of his birth.

“Special players can be rebellious”

Another turning point in Garnacho’s development was his debut with his new coach when he was just 15 years old. The youngster performed poorly and was replaced by Marcos at half-time, with the team going on to win 6-0 without him on the pitch. Garnacho’s response surprised the coaching staff: “We all expected a negative reaction, complaing or indiscipline, but it was the total opposite. Alejandro reacted with incredible maturity, he didn’t complain and he worked very hard all week. He is a smart boy who knew he was wrong and had no reason to be angry. He has that thing that characterises special players: they can be rebellious”.

After that, Marcos put him up against of his best defenders in training: “Carlos Ballesteros was a no-nonsense defender and he pushed him to the edge with some pretty aggressive tackles, but Alejandro drove him crazy”. The Atleti coach never doubted that Garnacho would go on to be a superstar: “He was one of those players you knew could win games for you”.