Chance meeting in Cayman Islands resulted in Ipswich Town signing Canadian wonderkid, Marcelo Flores
But for a chance meeting in the Cayman Islands, Ipswich Town would have missed out on Canadian wonderkid Marcelo Flores.
His name creates a vision of a La Liga superstar and if the teenager reaches his potential, then don’t rule out seeing him pull on a Barcelona or Real Madrid jersey in the future.
For now, the 13-year-old’s home is Suffolk and a leafy village near Felixstowe, where he lives with his family, including father, Ruben, a former professional in the Mexican top-flight.
Settled at Kesgrave High School, the tricky forward, who can perform over 2,000 consecutive keep-ups, also shares his home with sisters, Silvana (14) and Tatiana (11) – both registered with age-group teams at Essex FA – and mother, Susan, a former player in Canada.
So, how did the youngster with a Mexican father, coaching the women’s national team in the Cayman Islands, end up at Ipswich Town, representing the club’s under-13s?
“Steve Foley came across on an Ipswich Town exchange programme,” recalls Ruben.
“He was running a camp and asked if Marcelo wanted to join in.
“Marcelo jumped at the chance and stayed on the camp for the rest of the week.”
Foley, Needham Market’s Academy Head Coach and a Town Youth Development Coach, said: “He stuck out like a sore thumb, he reminded me of a young Craig Bellamy. I thought ‘Wow, who is this kid?’
“He made a big impression but the only way we were going to know if he was as good as he seemed, no disrespect to football in the Cayman Islands and Canada – they’re OK but I thought Marcelo was better – was for him to come and train with the Ipswich academy.
“He is quick, naturally fit and hungry for the ball, he doesn’t have to be told to go and get it back.
“He’s come here with great expectations and has fallen short on one or two occasions and people have questioned him and found fault.
“But that’s good for his make-up, he has overcome obstacles already.”
Father Ruben, 48, played in the Mexican top-flight during the 1980s and 1990s, featuring for clubs such as Cruz Azul, Irapuato and Atlante.
He added: “My career took me to different places and I see this latest chapter for Marcelo as being similar to (Jamie) Vardy’s at Leicester – there is hope for every kid in the world.
“But Marcelo is 13 and I will support him whatever he wants to do in life, there’s no pressure. I just want him to be happy at home, at school”
Despite that relaxed outlook, Foley cannot hide his excitement at potentially finding a future footballing star.
“Sometimes it’s fate. I went to the Cayman Island at the right time, just as I went to Norwich City at the right time when I discovered Bellamy,” he remembers.
“I’m in my 50th year in football – to give another boy his break would be massive for me.
“Hopefully I can achieve that with Marcelo, or someone else, before I retire.”
Ruben added: “It’s great because Ipswich has a fine history with Canadian footballers.
“Frank Yallop, Jason De Vos, Craig Forrest and Simeon Jackson were just some of the names that played here, so there is a strong link.
“It would be nice if Marcelo could be the next Canadian to play for Ipswich.”
Marcelo is currently impressing at Playford Road in the under-13s and is keen to follow in the footsteps of those aforementioned stars.
“One of my ambitions is to play professionally in the Premier League, but I would also like to play world-wide, in La Liga,” explained Marcelo, who revealed one of his heroes currently plays in Spain’s top-flight with Barcelona.
Internationally, my favourite is (Lionel) Messi, whilst in the Premier League, I like watching (Eden) Hazard – I try to model my game on them both.”