Marcelo Flores signed a new five-year deal with Arsenal this week but did you know he was described as the Canadian Craig Bellamy by the man who first brought him to England?
Marcelo Flores is an attacking midfielder with an incredible story about how he ended up playing in England.
His father, Ruben, who played for Atalante, was coaching the Cayman Islands Women’s team and a chance meeting there saw Marcelo end up signing for Ipswich Town of all places, despite being wanted by Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester City and others.
Ruben told East Anglican Daily Times, how the unlikely transfer of his then-13-year-old son came about.
“Steve Foley came across [to the Cayman Islands] on an Ipswich Town exchange programme.
“He was running a camp and asked if Marcelo wanted to join in.
“Marcelo jumped at the chance and stayed on the camp for the rest of the week.”
“He stuck out like a sore thumb, he reminded me of a young Craig Bellamy. I thought ‘Wow, who is this kid?’ said Foley, a youth development coach with Ipswich Town.
“He made a big impression but the only way we were going to know if he was as good as he seemed, no disrespect to football in the Cayman Islands and Canada – they’re OK but I thought Marcelo was better – was for him to come and train with the Ipswich academy.
“He is quick, naturally fit and hungry for the ball, he doesn’t have to be told to go and get it back.
“He’s come here [to Ipswich] with great expectations and has fallen short on one or two occasions and people have questioned him and found fault.
“But that’s good for his make-up, he has overcome obstacles already.”
Marcelo models himself on Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard and it is his aim to become a Premier League star before experiencing football in another country.
“One of my ambitions is to play professionally in the Premier League, but I would also like to play world-wide, in La Liga,” Marcelo said in 2018. “Internationally, my favourite is (Lionel) Messi, whilst in the Premier League, I like watching (Eden) Hazard – I try to model my game on them both.”
Flores, who is eligible to play for Canada because of where he was born and his mother’s nationality, and Mexico because of his father, would also have been able to play for England by the time he’s old enough to play for the Arsenal first team. He opted for his father’s country, however, and despite only turning 17 today has already been called up by Mexico’s u18s.
Arsenal signed Flores from Ipswich on a free. Ipswich’s manager at the time, Marcus Evans, was expected to make a statement detailing his frustration at how the academy is weighted towards bigger clubs after losing both Flores to Arsenal and Ben Knight to Manchester City.