Absa Premiership

Pirates prodigy set to join Henry at Monaco

Augusto Palacios (Gallo Images)
Augusto Palacios (Gallo Images)

Cape Town -  Augusto Palacios oversaw the development of budding striker Lyle Foster at the Orlando Pirates Development Academy - which he heads - and believes the 18-year-old prospect will be in good hands when he makes his pending move to AS Monaco at the end of the year - particularly with the legendary Thierry Henry having just taken over as manager of the French club.

"Lyle Foster is of the calibre of emerging young players who should be earmarked as potential candidates for the 2022 World Cup," said the former Peruvian World Cup incumbent. "And going to Europe and progressing further under someone with the vast soccer acumen of the French World Cup and ex-Arsenal hero presents him with an ideal opportunity to fulfil his potential."

Palacios also believes the fact that the highly regarded French club are experiencing an unexpected shaky period in the French League and are looking to rebuild their side as a situation that exists to Foster's advantage.

The Pirates Director of Development believes that moving to the highly competitive European soccer arena is a logical step for players with the talent to reach for the top level - pointing to the regular exodus of Brazilian and other South American stars, as well as a growing number now from Africa, to seek fame and fortune in Europe.

At the same time, Palacios warns that going to play in Europe should be reserved for players with the many capabilities to succeed in the tough football firmament that will await them overseas - "otherwise it can turn into a dead end and do more harm than good."

He also warns that South African soccer generally and the South African Football Association (SAFA), in particular, are presently delicately positioned  between building a potentially effective side, as is often blithely proclaimed, for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - yet first and foremost  neglecting the immediate paramount and essential issue of Bafana qualifying for the World Cup itself and next year's African Nations Cup with a somewhat different set of players.

"I must say," added Palacios, himself a former Bafana coach, "that often in the past I have seen South Africans naively talk about  what Bafana will do in a tournament like the World Cup - and then find to their dismay the team has not as much as qualified."

Palacios believes current Bafana coach Stuart Baxter is sufficiently experienced to be aware of the pitfalls - "but," adds the Pirates Development Director, "it is first and foremost the players the coach has at his disposal that have to do the job."

Notwithstanding this, Palacios sees Foster as capable of maturing sufficiently to perform at international level, not only by 2022, but much sooner as well if everything goes on course with Monaco, having already shown his mettle for South Africa at under-17 and under-20 level.

Apart from Foster's prospects, Palacios points to the nimble, but menacing Augustine Mahlonoko  as the latest in a string of exciting prospects to emerge from the Pirates Development Academy with the ability to establish themselves at international level.

And, confirming the high hopes in Foster and Mahlonoko is the fact that both The Buccaneers-bred teenagers were included in a recent English publication's survey of 60 talented youth players worldwide who could make it to soccer's top echelon.