‘The Boy Has Got Skills’ – Liverpool’s Gerardo Bruna

Gerardo_BrunaAnother youngster Liverpool have taken from Spain, Gerardo Alfredo Bruna Blanco was taken from the youth ranks of Real Madrid in the summer of 2007. Like compatriots Dani Pacheco and Daniel Ayala, Liverpool took the young star away from the Madrid giants before his 18th birthday, before Real could tie him up to a professional contract. Taken at the age of 16 after spending five years at the Bernabeu, Madrid were far from happy at the loss of a potential star to their English rivals. Real youth coach Michel said at the time Bruna would regret joining Liverpool when he fails to breakthrough into the first team:

“How many young players taken by Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have actually played for their first team? That is what happens all the time in England. When they see someone they like, they take him. They sign the boy to a contract, make all sorts of promises and then put him in their reserves and never give him a competitive game.”

There is no doubt there was some anger in his comments due to the fact that they had lost a very promising talent. A talent which had already been denoted the “new Messi.” Both Rafa Benitez and scout Eduardo Macia were delighted when Bruna opted for Anfield and rather than going straight to the academy, they decided to put the player into Gary Ablett’s reserve squad, like fellow Spaniard Dani Pacheco.

Bruna was born in Argentina, but was taken at a young age to Madrid where he played as a left winger in Real’s youth team. The similarities to Lionel Messi’s early career made sections of the Spanish press to label him as ‘Madrid’s Messi.’ It was an unfair tag for such a young player but it was demonstrative of the confidence that many had in the player’s talents, and why so many were upset when he left for Liverpool. Unlike Messi however, the young midfielder has opted to play for Spain due to his considerable time in the country from a young age. Once he acquired a Spanish passport, he helped Spain to win the U17 World Cup and defend the U-17 European Championship in 2008. He is still however available to play for either Spain or Argentina at senior level.

So how has the Spanish/Argentinean midfielder faired since he came to England two and a half years ago? In his first fleeting appearances for the reserves, Bruna did not impress as some would hope. At 16, he looked out of his depth and it was clear it would take some time for him to progress. He was easily shrugged off the ball due his weak frame, his passing was not always exact and his attempts at dribbling past players failed as he was easily blocked off. During his first season however, he grew in confidence and he started to become comfortable with reserve team football. His passes and dribbling improved and it quickly became apparent that he had a real flair for free kicks from a fantastic left foot. It was clear though that he was a very different player to Lionel Messi despite the parallels in upbringing. He does have good balance, skill and pace and can create as well as score goals, but his abilities from long range, his deliveries from set pieces and his capabilities from free kicks are where the young Spaniard’s qualities shine through.

He did assist Gary Ablett’s reserve side to the Reserve league title in 2007/08 but his appearances mainly came from the bench. He has since made an impressive reserve team trip to America for the Dallas Cup where he began to demonstrate his talents, showing off his delivery from set pieces by scoring directly from a corner on one occasion, as well scoring some superbly taken free kicks. His progression since has however been slightly disappointing. He was a regular in Liverpool’s reserve side last season but there were only brief moments of inspiration from the slight left winger and he has been hampered in his development by regular call ups to the Spanish youth team. What he no doubt needs to do, to play at the highest level, is to bulk up to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League. Such physical strength will no doubt make him a player to contend with, completing a player who already has natural pace, balance and a wonderful left foot. The next year or two will be a great indicator of what level he is capable of playing at.
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