Robert Pires: a legend back in Vila-real
Robert Pires: a legend back in Vila-real

The Yellows legend returns to his former home while his son Théo is training with Villarreal U16s for a week

Robert Pires has returned to Vila-real. The Submarino Amarillo legend, who played at the old El Madrigal from 2006 to 2010, was at the José Manuel Llaneza Training Ground last week for his son’s training sessions with the Yellow’s U16s (Cadete A) team. Pires’ family is based in Ibiza, where his son Théo plays for Peña Deportiva. The young Pires spent a week at Miralcamp training with the academy players under the club’s methodology.

“He is having a great time, but the most important thing for him is the opportunity to be here with the U16s, where there is a lot of level and speed in the game. The level in Ibiza is different. He is learning things. It’s very hard because the level is higher, but he has to learn and enjoy himself,” commented the French star during his stay in La Plana Baixa. Théo, born in Valencia during his father’s time with the Submarine, had to adapt from day one to a different training model to that of the Ibizan team and said: “It is a challenge because the level in Ibiza is lower. The pace is higher and the ball is always moving.”

The intensity in the sessions, as well spending a lot of time on the ball, is one of the main features of the Yellows Academy. “It is one of the best in Spain. Everyone knows that the youth academy is very important here. A lot of kids start at 12 or 13 and he trains with 15-year-olds. You can see that they have learned to play fast and to move. There’s a bit more intensity than I expected, the first day after training he was exhausted because he’s not used to it, but he’s learning. It’s a very good experience because he’s already seeing the level he has to reach if he wants to be a professional one day,” confessed the ex-footballer, who fell in love with this model after arriving from Arsenal.

“I think football in Spain is different from other countries. It’s like ‘get the ball, pass it and move’ instead of dribbling so much and the methodology is different. In Ibiza it’s like there’s more time and less pressure to decide,” added young Théo, who doesn’t remember seeing his father in yellow live due to his young age: “I don’t remember seeing my father play here because I was about two or three years old. I was very young, but I’ve seen the highlights on YouTube.”

The best academy in Spain

As Pires points out, “The evolution of the club is very great. It has been doing well for years. In my time, there was already the same president, Fernando Roig. For the people, the most important thing is the first team, as is normal, but for the president it is also very important to have a good youth academy. Today he has it. We are seeing it with the U16s, which has a lot of quality. But it’s not just that, the B team is in the second division and the women’s team is in the first tier too.”

Pau Torres, Álex Baena, Samu Chukwueze, Yeremy Pino and Filip Jorgensen are just some of the names who came through the youth ranks and are now shining with the first team at the Estadio de la Cerámica. “It just shows that the youth system is very good,” said the France international. “To have such a production of players means a lot of things. When you’re Théo’s age, you dream of being a professional one day, but first you have to work very hard and be demanding in your life. All these names worked very hard and, at some point, thanks to talent, they achieved their dream. What the club is doing with the youth system is very good and that’s why there are very young players who are already in the first team,” he added.

The former player was impressed (again) with the work of the club at all levels. “Villarreal is for me one of the best clubs in Spain and you can see that from the youngest players,” he argued after his week watching numerous training sessions and matches at the training ground. Pires was able to see that almost three decades later that work continues to bear fruit.