HE produced an outrageous ‘Zidane turn’ with virtually his first senior touch, against giants Juventus and set up a crucial winning goal with his last via a sublime pass.
All this in the space of 103 minutes and five substitute appearances for Melbourne Victory, aged 16.
This is why Ajax Amsterdam, world soccer’s best talent factory, came aggressively for Wangaratta-raised Seb Pasquali.
Pasquali, who turned 17 last week, declared that there was only one club in the world that could have lured him from Victory.
“If it was any other club, I wouldn’t have done it. I was above and beyond happy with Victory,’’ Pasquali told the Herald Sun.
“It’s Ajax and they’ve got a long history of producing and promoting young players and onto bigger clubs. Some of the best players in the world have come from their youth system.
“I’m not going there to get into the first-team straight away. I want to experience their coaching, training, 24/7 football mentality. I believe that’s the best thing for me to become the best footballer I can be and play at a big club one day.
“I’d love to be able to represent the first team eventually. The sky’s the limit with how much you can improve at a club like Ajax.
“I’m stoked to have been noticed by such a well known club for producing world class young players and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.’’
Pasquali started playing age six at Wangaratta City, revealing that he spent hours each day playing in the backyard, sometimes before school, and in the playground.
Ten years on he was promoted to Kevin Muscat’s side after stellar form with Victory’s youth side and impressed that much that he was thrown in for a debut against Juventus at the MCG last July.
The ‘Zidane turn’ was followed by a key role in Victory’s equaliser before an ice-cool penalty secured a shootout win over the Italian giants.
“It was pretty surreal, I had all my family and friends sitting in the stand. I had the full support of my hometown Wangaratta behind me,’’ he said.
“During warm-up I was looking around, couldn’t believe I was on the MCG. When I got on I just wanted to have fun and enjoy it and make the most of it.
“Victory helped me enormously by giving me the chance to play on the big stage and were very supportive when I was injured.’’
Pasquali has also done lots of one-on-one training with former professional Michael Panolpoulos, who facilitated the Ajax move.
“The opportunity presented to Seb has not been an overnight success. It’s mostly down to his dedication and the local development pathway deserves credit, from state teams to Victory,’’ Panopoulos said.
Adorning Pasquali’s walls only recently were posters of Barcelona legends Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who he models himself on as a player and person, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bright-eyed Pasquali revealed that he’ll have one more kick with his mates at a local park before departing for Holland on Sunday.
“I’ve got a favourite football field in Melbourne so I’ll probably go down there and play a bit with my mates for a couple of hours before I leave. That will be special,’’ Pasquali said.
“Countless hours have been spent having fun playing with my mates and training with teams, but your most memorable football experiences are with people you enjoy being around and sharing memories with.’’
It may be his last social kick for quite some time.
WHY THE AJAX ACADEMY IS FAMOUS
– Ajax is the most prolific producer of talent in the world, with more than 80 academy products playing professionally today
– It developed the attacking style of football — “Total Football” that’s legendary today.
– “Total Football” was championed by FIFA coach of the century Rinus Michels and world football icon Johan Cruyff as players and coaches
– The skill-based philosophy has led to Ajax producing dozens of world-class players
– Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Johan Neeskens and Dennis Bergkamp are the club’s most famous products
– Ajax legends Bergkamp (assistant coach), Marc Overmars (sports director) and Edwin van der Saar (chief executive) are all involved.
© 2016 Herald Sun | This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on 19 November 2016.