Usain Bolt played 19 minutes for the Central Coast Mariners on the wing, but could be better off playing at full-back. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
World Cup-winning coach Vicente del Bosque has said Usain Bolt could make it as a professional footballer, but the sprint king would have to take a few steps backwards in order to go forward.
Del Bosque, whose glittering coaching career includes winning the Champions League and La Liga twice with Real Madrid, as well as the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship with Spain, has proposed that Bolt move from wing to full-back in order to make the most of his pace.
The eight-time Olympic gold medallist made his debut on the left wing for the Mariners in a trial match, but made little impression in a 19-minute cameo off the bench in the 6-1 victory over a Central Coast select side.
Vicente del Bosque coached Real Madrid to the 2000 and 2002 Champions League titles. (REUTERS: Arnd Wiegmann)
Bolt has previously professed a preference to play either out wide or as a striker to best utilise his skills, but del Bosque disagrees.
“With space, he could be a very good footballer.”
“He could be a full-back that covers a lot of space, but it depends, because it’s not just about covering 100, or 60 or 70 metres of the pitch, it’s about doing it many times over and that requires stamina which I don’t know whether he has or not — although I’m sure he has prepared.” del Bosque said in an interview with the Olympic Channel.
“Without a doubt as a full-back, with his back towards the crowd and the touchline, that’s where he would be most useful.”
That stamina and “football fitness” has already been identified as an area of weakness by both Bolt and his coach at the Mariners, Mike Mulvey.
“The thing he is struggling with more than anything now is getting used to the football fitness,” Mulvey said prior to Bolt’s televised debut last month.
Bolt agreed, highlighting just one of the many hurdles he is going to have to overcome on his quest for a professional contract.
“It’s the stop and go, the tick tacks, because I am not used to going up and down, up and down, back and forth. I think that’s the most challenging.” Bolt said.
Living the dream
One of the other challenges that Bolt faces is learning the nuances of the game and developing the skills necessary to make the most of his pace, and del Bosque agrees that this will be the toughest challenge for the 32-year-old.
“To start playing professional football at the age of 32 isn’t normal,” he said.
“It’s difficult because despite being in peak physical condition, I believe that the technical part is the fundamental part of football. A player’s fantastic conditioning — being fast, agile, powerful — should support the technical ability.
“The most difficult part will be to acquire the technical skills you need for any play. Control, passing, dribbling, a good touch on the ball. Skills that you normally have had since childhood.”
Despite these obvious challenges, del Bosque was fully supportive of Bolt pursuing his dreams.
“He has won a lot during his 32 years of life and, he has earned the right to say ‘hey, I want to be a footballer’,” del Bosque said.
“The level at which he can play, whether it is professionally or a bit lower, will show in his performance.
“But it’s true that in these clips I see a very optimistic player who is smiling all the time like he was living the dream of any kid.”