Young Gun – Jesse Makarounas


Perth Glory youngster Jesse Makarounas spent a year at the AIS being trained to play like Barcelona. Now, when he gets his chance, he’s looking to bring a touch of Catalunya to this Glory side.

Perth Glory teenager Jesse Makarounas may only be 17, but he has more stamps in his passport than most people three times his age, having crossed the world back and forth a few times with the Qantas Australian Under-17 and Under-20s sides over the last year.

Having been part of the Qantas Joeys’ AFC U-16 Championship in Uzbekistan and then the U-17 World Cup campaign in Mexico last June, Perth-native Makarounas then found himself in South Africa on the Glory’s pre-season camp, before heading over to Japan with the Australian Under-20 side.

Makarounas and teammate Adam Taggart also might be heading to Malaysia in October, the Glory pair having been selected in an initial 23-man squad for the AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur.

But, while he’s had many eye-opening travel experiences for someone so young, one of the midfielder’s greatest influences probably comes from the Catalunya area of northern Spain, where the world’s best side, Barcelona, ply their trade.

Taken into the Australian Institute of Sport’s football program last year, Makarounas found himself being put through some rigorous technical training by Qantas Young Socceroos coach Jan Versleijen, who uses Barcelona’s high-tempo passing game and style of play as a model to train the youngsters in his care.

And, it’s a model that seems to suit Makarounas – despite his favourite team being Real Madrid – after the midfielder played the Lionel Messi role for the AIS side in the National Youth League last season, scoring nine goals along the way.

“I sort of play the same position as Messi,” the likable Makarounas reluctantly admitted.

“But there’s not really any comparison is there, he’s just a freak.”

“But we played a 4-3-3, so it’s the exact same formation as Barcelona, so it was good because then we could watch the games and analyse the way they position themselves and it gave us a real good base to work through.”

“We were lucky to have Arthur Papas (now Melbourne Heart’s NYL assistant coach), he was very good with the video analysis side of things,” Makarounas explained.

“He was always cutting up parts of games and having video sessions and the head coach (Versleijen) was just pointing out things like positioning with the ball, without the ball, certain situations.

“So we were watching teams like Barcelona … and I guess there’s nothing really better than watching the best players in the world, and you think to yourself, that’s where I’m going wrong, I should do things more like that.”

This was exactly the attitude Versleijen was trying to instill in his youngsters.

“Of course they are from another planet,” said Versleijen when talking of Barcelona.

“But they have great technical skills, based on technical discipline and technical ability. Tthat’s something we try to give young players and of course what we try to give to Jesse in this case.”

“If you look at international level, there are a few key points that are very important. First is your technical ability; without any technical ability, technical skills, technical game skills, you’re not able to play at a higher level.

“Another thing that we worked on is the ball speed. Of course, the ball speed is the deciding factor in the way you play football especially when you like to and you want to play combination football and that’s what we try to do.

“The third thing is the technical awareness and for one part that’s something somebody has as a talent. You can develop this a little bit, but with Jesse, I think he has, especially in the attacking areas, he has some technical ability to get to that higher level.”

Makarounas has already had a taste of that higher level, being exposed to gifted youngsters from South America and all round the world at the Under-17 World Cup.

Makarounas scored for Australia in the Qantas Joey’s 2-1 group stage win over Cote d’Ivoire in Guadalajara, but an untimely hamstring injury during the final group game against Denmark, meant he missed the Round of 16 clash with Uzbekistan, where the Aussies were eliminated from the tournament in a 4-0 loss.

Despite that disappointment, Makarounas is thrilled he can use this experience and his desire to develop his skills at the Glory.

And, the young gun couldn’t be any happier being able to learn from talented ex-Celtic and Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller.

“Whenever you have a question to ask, you can ask any of the players,” Makarounas said.

“But for myself, Steve McGarry or Liam Miller (really help me), ’cause they’re sort of the same positions as me. It’s great for myself to have players that I’m sort of competing with for a spot, to have such nice people that give help to me, is good.”

“And just by training with the first team, you can see that my positioning is so much better and technique. You think so much quicker than you do playing youth football, so it just makes your thought process so much quicker, so it’s definitely helped my football,” he said.