Michael Beale: There should be an 'i' in team

Michael Beale

Michael Beale

SAO PAULO assistant Michael Beale says English football has suffered because of a focus on developing teams at the expense of individuals.

Beale, 36, left Liverpool, where he was Under-23 boss, to become Sao Paulo's assistant manager in December.

The level of technical ability and creativity among almost all of the players at the Brazilian club has surprised him - and has been in stark contrast to the situation he found at the English academies.

“In a team in England, maybe three or four are technically very gifted, and there’s a mix of what you’d call ‘old-fashioned’ British players,” Beale told The Guardian.

“Here every player has a trick and the ability to play one v one. I don’t believe in saying there’s no ‘I’ in team. There are 11 individuals in a side and I think it’s more about fuelling the individual than tactics. I’ve got a huge desire for individual development and fine-tuning players.”

This is a theme that Beale - the author of several coaching books and a former youth development officer at Chelsea - has touched on before.

In February he explained: “In England, my belief is that we are too collective in our thinking at a younger age and this focus on teams has a huge detrimental effect on individual development and mastery of the ball."

“The Brazilian players are outstanding technically and this makes the game so much easier. In my honest opinion, the tactical understanding could improve. But I would always take the top quality technicians firstly, and then develop the tactical part and positioning on the field.

“I’m returning to my thoughts on individual player’s development over the development of teams. This runs from under-nines through to senior first team football, where I feel it can be a little bit impersonal and too much information and coach education has been about the team and tactics.

“The overall technical standard is also much higher [in Brazil] and each player, especially the younger ones, are very comfortable receiving the ball, twisting and turning away from pressure and outplaying their opponents one v one."

During Beale’s time at Liverpool, 18 academy players made first-team debuts, including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria. Mike Garrity has stepped up to take the Under-23s at Liverpool on an interim basis, although the club is still looking for a permanent replacement for Beale.

When the club was contacted by TGG, they did not comment further.

Michael Beale and Connor Randall

MICHAEL BEALE factfile:

  • SAO PAOLO: Assistant manager (Jan 2017 -)
  • LIVERPOOL: U23 head coach (Sep 2012 - Jan 2017)
  • CHELSEA: Academy coach & youth development (Mar 2003-Sep 2012)

At Chelsea, Ruben Lotus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke came through on Beale's watch, although first-team opportunities have been a problem for the duo - something that is again in contrast to Brazil.

"If you look at the [Sao Paulo] squad now, 13 or 14 players have come from there [the academy]," Beale explains.

The Englishman is also relishing the opportunity to learn a second language, although it hasn't been easy to get to grips with Portuguese.

“I think as a nation we are not as obsessed with languages as we probably should be," Beale said. "That stifles us not just in football but in every business."

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