Whitton United’s FA Vase opponents have links with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi

Guillem Balague

Guillem Balague - Credit: Archant

Whitton United’s visitors in the FA Vase this afternoon have links with arguably the world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi.

Biggleswade United play in the Spartan South Midlands Premier League and are currently 13th after three games played.

However, there is more than a sprinkling of Latin influence running through the club, while the non-league minnows have plenty of big-name fans, including Juan Mata and Gianluigi Buffon.

The link is thanks to director of football Guillem Balague, who regularly graces our screens as SKY Sports’ Spanish football expert.

Balague, who splits his time between England and Spain, got involved with Biggleswade almost two years ago and describes it as one of his best-ever decisions.

Balague, a respected journalist, who has also written books on Messi, Pep Guardiola and Rafa Benitez, said: “I tried to buy a football club in Spain with (former Middlesbrough midfielder) Gaizka Mendieta and some other relevant people in Spain but, for one reason or another, it didn’t happen.

“I started to work towards my coaching badges and my local club, Hitchin, suggested I went there and did some coaching, but I could never find the time.

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“Then Chris Lewis (Biggleswade chairman) asked if I wanted to get involved with Biggleswade and I jumped at the chance. I did not even ask what division the club was in, or whether it had a ground.

“I have been there almost two years and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

Since Balague’s arrival the club has launched an academy, while attracting some high-profile fans and sponsors.

“As a result of my friendship with Messi we have Adidas shirts, while we are sponsored by “Top Eleven” (an online football manager game with over 120 million users).”

The club’s first-team is managed by Cristian Colas, who fought off competition from ex-coaches at Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to get the top job.

“I couldn’t be happier, added Balague.

“We are having a whale of a time. The pressures are high and there are a lot of demands to juggle in non-league, but we have captured the imagination here and abroad and I believe non-league football is becoming fashionable again.

“We’re trying to play football the right way. It doesn’t guarantee results, but it encourages people to follow us.”

Elsewhere in the Vase today Hadleigh host Debenham LC, Framlingham travel to Thetford, Walsham-le-Willows entertain Deeping and Mildenhall go to Wisbech.

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