Javier del Rio, Head of the La Liga/Nigeria Office, on Wednesday in Abuja said the Spanish league organisers have been working closely with the League Management Company (LMC).
Del Rio told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the close relationship with the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) organisers was aimed at establishing a proper youth structure for Nigerian clubs.
He said this was crucial to developing the league and producing world class footballers for Nigeria.
“The NPFL is capable of producing the next Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta (graduates of the FC Barcelona academy) or those better than they are if a proper youth system is established with the NPFL clubs,” Del Rio said.
He said there was the need for grassroots development for the Nigerian league to grow.
“Nigeria has a lot of talents, but the problem has been how to discover them early, harness and mould them into world class stars,” the La Liga official said.
He said La Liga, in conjunction with c, was trying to replicate the Spanish La Liga model in Nigeria’s NPFL so as to develop the league and make it more attractive.
“Since our partnership came into being in 2016, several workshops have taken place which have helped set up a proper roadmap for the league.
“We are also helping the clubs develop a strong youth structure, so as to develop their young players into professionals like we have in Spain.
”For example, players like Iniesta and Messi became who they are because they have been playing for FC Barcelona since they were 11 or 12 years old.
“So, the key to getting very good players is to start training them when they are very young and this is what we are looking at in Nigeria,’’ Del Rio said.
He said La Liga would continue to organise coaching clinics for Nigerian youth coaches and the NPFL/La Liga under-15 tournament which has produced some players for the national under-17 team.
Del Rio expressed optimism that with proper organisation, funding, television coverage and youth system development, the NPFL would soon begin to rank among the best leagues in Africa.
NAN reports that the the NPFL/LaLiga partnership has since 2016 recorded a number of exchange projects between the two leagues, including a tour of Spain by an NPFL All-Stars team.