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LFCTR Exclusive Interview: Michael Beale

Long-time youth academy staple Michael Beale has returned to Liverpool as the head of coaching for the foundation phase. The former Reds’ U23 manager left to join Sao Paulo last December, but has returned to the club to work primarily with youngsters aged 5-11.  Recently, Beale spoke to LFC Transfer Room’s Liam Grimshaw (@LiamGrimshawLFC) about his experience abroad and his return to life on Merseyside.

Start to life in Brazil

Beale left Sao Paulo in July, an experience he describes as chaotic but ultimately fulfilling.

“The first week was a whirlwind at São Paulo. I left home on New Year’s Day and arrived in Brazil on the second. On the third we had a full day of planning and meeting technical staff. On the fourth we had the initial press conference to announce the staff. I spoke Portuguese for the first time in public at this press conference and then we had training. It was a crazy period of adjustment to weather, culture and meeting new people. I really enjoyed those moments and they will live with me for the rest of my life.

The people were brilliant to me, the staff, players and fans. People in Brazil are very friendly and as I was trying to learn the language I was often speaking to strangers or taxi drivers to practice my Portuguese. I managed to learn the key essentials in regards to my work and by the time I left Brazil I was happy taking a session in the new language. In my daily life it was a bit tougher – although I really enjoyed learning the language and could have conversations with people. Since returning to Liverpool I try to speak to the Spanish or Portuguese players in their language when I have the chance.”

Rogerio Ceni sacking, and his own departure

Despite the positive start to life in Brazil, things quickly took a sour turn for all involved at Sao Paulo. A poor performance in the league and failure to advance in Cup competitions led to the sacking of Sao Paulo legend Rogerio Ceni.

“I was extremely sad and disappointed as Rogerio gives his life to São Paulo FC and was working so hard to hold a team together that was being broken by constant changes to the team due to sales of the best players to European clubs. What people often won’t see is the impact that a sale or potential sale of a player can have on the whole squad. In my experience of Brazil, it’s natural for players to leave, but with a game each 3 days, it’s very difficult to then get the team cohesive and also balanced when you may lose a very important part of the team.

In the first months of our work, it was a great time and we were able to reduce the average age of the team and were scoring a lot of goals and playing with lots of speed in the team. We were planning for the future of the club.

A big disappointment came in one week when we lost in the Copa Do Brasil to eventual winners (Cruzeiro) and in the semi-final of the state championships to Corinthians (who won the final) who are currently flying at the top of the national league. This coincided with the break-up of the team. Which was sad.”

Eventually, Beale also stepped down from his role after he stopped believing in the direction the club was going.

“I didn’t believe in the direction of the club due to many of the better players leaving. We had players moving on and other players inside the team looking to move on with them.

Our team was very fast and energetic in the first instance but overnight our team didn’t look the same and it was hard for me to see the long term direction of the team and project. It was best to leave than to stay in my personal opinion.”

Reflection on his time in Brazil

Beale still believes the move was the correct choice and the experiences in South America have helped him grow.

“The experience was fantastic and I really enjoyed working with the players and staff. I had a lot of once in a lifetime experiences and made lifelong friendships.

To play in front of 57,000 fans and to train South American players were fantastic experiences. I have now experienced things that I was never going to experience at home in England and that gives me a much wider perspective on coaching.

Outside the pitch, I have also grown as a person and also got a greater knowledge of South American culture and how Brazilian, Argentinian, Uruguayan and Peruvian players see the game of football. I am fascinated by this and combining it with my own experience of English and European players.

The key to going to South American was to expand my knowledge on players and people. So I am really pleased to tick that box. Also understanding how difficult it can be for foreign players to leave their homeland, culture and environment to come and play in England is for them. As I experienced the reverse situation.”

After making the decision to leave Brazil, Beale had a number of offers to manage around the world. But ultimately, he wanted to spend time with his family.

“When I decided to leave São Paulo I wanted to return home to England and spend some quality time with my two children and wife. In six months, I had only been with them for two and a half months.

In the immediate days after leaving São Paulo I was offered two U23 jobs in England, and a manager’s job in China, Brazil and Europe. It was the wrong timing and I wanted to spend quality time at home.

This was important to digest everything that had happened in Brazil and to make sure that I took the full learning aspects from the experiences I had.”

Return to LFC

After a few months out of the game, Beale had some decisions to make regarding his future. Naturally, he turned to his long-time employers for guidance.

“I had called Liverpool for advice on one or two of the jobs that were offered to me. The club, as always have been excellent with me and they gave me fantastic advice. From this, I decided that I wouldn’t work until January 2018 and would do some scouting of games and visiting different clubs across Europe to view best practice.

However, the opportunity to return to the club in this new role come about and it was something that I have a big experience in from my time at Chelsea. Also – I have a huge desire for skill coaching and developing individual technique in players. It’s an area of coaching that I’m known for and therefore, it’s a no brainer for me to return to a club and staff that I love and in an area that I have a big passion for.

In the future, I’m sure that working up the age groups, will be something that I want to do and also one day to work abroad again or to take the step as a manager. But in this moment, I am just very happy to be back at Liverpool and helping the academy to continue the great developments made in the past few years. It’s a very exciting place to be.”

In the future, I would love to work overseas again. I’m obsessed with pushing my personal boundaries and challenging myself to improve. I have a great experience in England and if I’m ever not required at Liverpool then my next option would be to go abroad again.”

Welcome back to Liverpool, Michael, and best of luck!

Liam Grimshaw
21, journalism graduate, avid LFC fan and aspiring writer.

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