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Oakwell staff teach Rui Costa and co as part of link between Reds and Benfica

By Doug O'Kane, Sports Editor Friday 14th February 2014
Mark Burton, Howard Dean and Ronnie Branson in Benfica's Estadio da Luz.

Barnsley Academy staff were invited to Portuguese giants Benfica over the weekend to give a presentation in a trip which could be the start of a long-term link between the clubs.


After being impressed by the Oakwell academy on a trip to England late last year, Benfica's head youth team coach Armando Carneiro invited Reds' academy coaches Ronnie Branson, Mark Burton and Howard Dean to Lisbon and the Estadio De Luz to give a presentation to their staff including director of football Rui Costa, who won 94 Portugal caps and played for AC Milan.


There is now a possibility that the two clubs will form a link that allows them to face each other in pre-season friendlies and send academy and first team players out on loan either way.


There could also be coaching and squad trips between the clubs and the Reds are hoping to sign Portuguese youngsters for their under 16s and under 18s.


"It's in the early stages but Benfica seem very keen to build a relationship with us so it could happen," said academy manager Branson.


"It's a great opportunity for our academy and the club as a whole to be linked with the former European Cup winners and 32-time Portuguese champions.They know we are not a massive club but they trust us and they like the way we do things. Portuguese football is very technical but by coming here they can improve the psychology, aggression and hard work in their games. Our players can go the other way and work on their technique."


The Reds coaches showed the Benfica staff several of the under 18s' impressive goals this season which have become YouTube sensations and also told them about their coaching programme.


Head of academy coaching Burton said: "We were the first English club they ever invited on a trip like that. "People might be surprised that a club like Benfica wanted to learn about how Barnsley do things but they were all very interested and I think we taught them a bit. I think they were a bit surprised about how good the goals were that our lads had scored.


"They liked our commitment to playing good football. The two clubs are similar in their philosophies but obviously they are on a much bigger scale as they play in front of 65,000 fans every week. We made our presentation in front of Rui Costa and a lot of very experienced former Benfica and Portugal players and they all seemed to love it.  It was also a good learning experience for us. We went from Thursday to Monday and it was a fantastic trip.  The only bad thing was that we were supposed to watch the derby against Sporting Lisbon on Sunday night but it was called off ten minutes before kick-off because of high winds."


The coaches received some good news in Lisbon on Saturday night after hearing the under 18s had registered their seventh straight win in a 4-0 success at Nottingham Forest. George Maris netted twice to take his tally to 14 for the season while Nana Boakye-Yiadom got his tenth and Dominic McHale also netted. The young Reds are currently second in Category Two North. They next face leaders Huddersfield on February 22.