Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

Jurgen Klopp has always been open to giving young players a chance to play for Liverpool. Players like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones, Caoimhin Kellher, and Harvey Elliott have all become established members of the first team. Last season, Stefan Bajcetic was set to join this group, but his breakthrough campaign was cut short due to injury.

Other promising youngsters such as Ben Doak, Bobby Clark, Calvin Ramsay, Layton Stewart, and Melkamu Frauendorf were also given opportunities to play for the first team. In the upcoming pre-season, players like Conor Bradley, Tyler Morton, and Kaide Gordon, who have either been on loan or recovering from injuries, will also have chances to impress.

However, in the past, young players didn’t always have as many opportunities to play for the senior team at Liverpool. For instance, the club signed a highly-rated youngster from Real Madrid in 2007, but he left four years later without making a single appearance for the senior team.

Former Liverpool reserves player Gerardo Bruna, who was highly praised and dubbed as the “next Messi” when he joined the club, attributed his limited chances in the senior team to managerial changes. He came close to making his debut under the manager who signed him, Rafa Benitez.

“In Spain you have so many teams – under-18s, under-19s, the third team, the second team and then Real Madrid. I was only in the under-16s at the time, it’s a really big step,” he told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph when recalling his Reds career in 2015.

“So when Liverpool called me and offered me the chance to train with the reserves and the first team sometimes, I felt like it was a lot closer. I thought for a 16-year-old kid it was a good move. Benitez was one of the main reasons too…

“After I played for Argentina [Under-20s in the Toulon tournament in 2009] I came back to Liverpool and did pre-season, that was when Benitez gave me a chance in the first-team squad. But I had a knee injury, I had the operation in Barcelona and when I came back I struggled a little bit with injuries and wasn’t involved that much.

“Benitez left and everything changed. Roy Hodgson came, I still trained a few times with the first team, but then came Kenny Dalglish and he told me I was not going to play in his first team, so obviously I needed to do something.”

Since leaving Liverpool in 2011, Gerardo Bruna has had a diverse career in the lower tiers of football. He initially joined Blackpool in the Championship but made only four appearances before returning to Spain to play for Segunda Division B side Huesca. He then had short stints with Tranmere Rovers and Whitehawk in England before signing for Accrington Stanley in January 2015.

After being released by Accrington Stanley, Bruna joined Ottawa Fury and later moved to Derry City in the League of Ireland in February 2019. He then transferred to Shelbourne but unfortunately suffered an ACL injury before playing a game. In September of the same year, he signed for NIFL Premiership side Dungannon Swifts.

It is with Dungannon Swifts that Bruna’s story takes an interesting turn. Although he may not have lived up to the “next Messi” label, he left a lasting impression during his solitary season with the club. In November, Bruna became a viral sensation after scoring an incredible goal from inside his own half against Glentoran. This was his only goal of the season, but he made 25 appearances for the team.

However, Bruna’s most memorable moment came recently when he played a crucial role in helping Dungannon Swifts avoid relegation. After the regular season ended with a 2-1 victory over Newry City, Bruna thought his time with the club was over and returned to Spain. But due to a delay in the two-legged relegation playoff against Annargh United, the club faced injuries, absences, and player departures.

With Dungannon Swifts losing the first leg 2-1, manager Dean Shiels called upon Bruna to join the team for the second leg on June 1. Despite not even having his boots with him, as he had left for a planned trip to France for the Monaco Grand Prix, Bruna played a crucial role in the team’s 2-0 victory, securing their safety. He spent less than 48 hours back in Northern Ireland before flying out to Monte Carlo. This remarkable effort helped extend Dungannon Swifts’ 20-year stay in the Premiership.

“The manager [Dean Shiels] called me on Wednesday morning and asked could I come over for the game the next night,” Bruna explained. “By coincidence, I was in England — I was supposed to be in France — so I said, ‘yeah, okay’. Then I flew back to France this morning straight after the game.

“I was in Monaco watching the Grand Prix and supposed to be in France all week. But I flew back to the UK on Tuesday night because my wife, who was still in Liverpool, said to come back and we’d fly back out to France together.

“I went straight to sleep and then I woke up the next morning and Dean had texted, and so I said to my wife, ‘I think I have to go again’. It was just a coincidence I was in the UK because I was supposed to be in France. It was only on Monday night that I decided to go back.

“I don’t think Dean even knew I was back in the UK as my plan was to stay in France. But we spoke on the phone and I said, ‘yeah, no problem’. The only thing was that I had to fly straight back after the game. My flight back to France was at 7am this morning.

“I didn’t even have my boots — they were in my old house in Derry. Dean said, ‘okay, just fly to Belfast’, and he got me a car to drive to Derry to get my boots. I went for dinner and went to sleep. Then I woke up the next day and got ready for the game.”

In the NIFL Irish Premiership, the organizational infrastructure is quite different compared to professional clubs like Liverpool or Real Madrid. As a result, Dungannon Swifts’ manager, Dean Shiels, had to take on the additional responsibility of coordinating Gerardo Bruna’s travel arrangements. 

This included arranging flights, hotel accommodations, and airport pick-ups to ensure Bruna could make it back to Stangmore Park in time for the crucial game. In a remarkable effort, Shiels even organized a detour to retrieve Bruna’s boots along the way.

The hard work and dedication put into organizing Bruna’s return did not go unnoticed by Shiels. He expressed his delight in seeing their efforts pay off and paid tribute to Bruna, highlighting the lengths they both went to in order to get the 32-year-old player back on the pitch.

“Bruna has flown back especially for tonight,” Shiels said after the game. “He only got in this morning. I booked the flights, the hotel and picked him up myself as I knew the importance of having him in the team.

“He has shown so much desire and has had to deal with personal issues off the field which people aren’t aware of. He’s been a pleasure to work with and his appetite to come and help this club stay in the league was so refreshing.

“His quality was really needed tonight. He was in France and Spain over the last few weeks. His quality is unquestionable, obviously given his fitness levels it was tough on him.

“I rang him after the game on Tuesday, I didn’t think he’d be available but we had a big desire to bring him because we knew how much he would help us.”

Shiels continued: “Mentally it has been tough… just the whole play-off situation, the wait for the games and not knowing who we were playing and it seems like it has been a never-ending season.

“Mentally that was tough on the staff and the players, both teams. The league came to a decision and we got two games in two days, which was crazy, but both teams had to really throw everything at it.

“From our own point of view, having 12 players out tonight was just crazy and trying to get a team that could turnaround a deficit.”

Following his departure from Dungannon Swifts, Gerardo Bruna is currently without a club and considered a free agent. Despite his exit, Bruna expressed his happiness in being able to contribute to the team’s safety and success. He was particularly grateful to the Swifts for giving him an opportunity to return to playing after recovering from a lengthy lay-off due to an ACL injury.

“I am so happy for Dungannon,” he said. “It has been a really tough time for me. I had left Derry City and went to Shelbourne and tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), so I was out for ages.

“It has taken me a while to come back, and I am so grateful to Dungannon for giving me the chance to play football again.”

Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

Liverpool’s ‘next Lionel Messi’ now without a club after answering desperate SOS call

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