Premier League Encounter for Sports Scholars

18th January 2021

Taking time out of his busy schedule to address Winchester's elite sportsmen last month, Oriol Romeu told the fascinating story of his journey to became a professional footballer. 

At the age of 12 Oriol left home to join the Academy at La Liga side Espanyol, and at 14 he joined Barcelona’s Youth Academy, where he was signed as a professional by Pep Guardiola. Oriol then signed to Chelsea FC when he was just 19. After loan deals at Valencia and Stuttgart, Oriol joined Southampton in 2015 and has since become an integral member of their midfield.

Central to Oriol’s account of his progress as a professional footballer were the importance of values and behaviours, especially the need to be true to oneself and to treat people with respect and humility. He highlighted how important it is to make the necessary sacrifices if one wants to be successful, and gave insights into how boys with more talent and technique than he possessed had fallen by the wayside as a result of a poor level of application and commitment. Oriol also emphasised that sometimes one might need to take a step backward in order to progress at a later stage. After moving to London at 19 to sign for Chelsea and playing numerous matches for the 1st XI, he could easily have felt he had “made it big”. However, not being an automatic selection resulted him in accepting loan moves to Valencia and then to Stuttgart, where he learned German to go alongside English, which he had learned whilst in London. The importance of humility and wanting to better oneself ran throughout Oriol’s presentation and these are traits we want our sport scholars to embrace fully.

Oriol generously provided plenty of time for our boys to quiz him on his career and it was here that he went into more depth around his psychological and physical preparation for matches. Mental imagery, visualisation, regular self-review and reflection are psychological tools he uses frequently and are skills he believes all young aspiring sportsmen should embrace. He has also recognised the importance of appropriate nutrition to fuel his energy demands, perhaps realising this later in his career than he should have by his own admission, but something that he feels we should all do.

It was Oriol’s concluding comments which resonated with the boys and staff the most when he emphasised the importance of listening to and learning from one’s peers and coaches, as this provides the tools to question and develop one’s knowledge further.

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