Barcelona plan academy in Denmark to find new Laudrups

(Reuters) - The dream of Danish kids hoping to emulate Michael Laudrup and play for Barcelona moved a step closer on Thursday with the announcement of the Spanish club's plans to set up an academy near Copenhagen.

Allan Simonsen, who became the first Dane to represent the Catalan club when he joined in 1979, said the academy would offer young Danish prospects a new kind of footballing education.

"FC Barcelona comes with a new offer to the young people, who will come to learn an entirely different philosophy," Simonsen told a news conference as plans for the FCBEscola academy, which will be based some 16km north-west of Copenhagen in Ballerup, were unveiled.

"I sincerely doubt that the philosophy is practised in very many places, so it will be completely new."

But reaction to the news was not all positive and the Danish FA (DBU) poured cold water on the idea.

"The DBU has still not received an official request from FC Barcelona about their desire for the establishment of an academy in Denmark, including specific information on what such a setup would contain," the DBU said in a statement.

"It is a precondition for the establishment of such an academy in Denmark that it obtains the approval of the DBU."

The DBU's head of grassroots soccer Steen Joergensen expressed concern over the well-being of children and that Danish junior football could become a hotbed of competition between elite academies as youngsters chase the dream of turning professional.

"For us it is important that FC Barcelona, like all others, manage to take care of both the child and the talent, so that there won't be tough competition with focus on the potential economic gain at too early an age," he said in a statement.

"It is initially about childrens' well-being, happiness and security, which in our opinion are fundamental prerequisites for the development of children."

FCBEscola director Xevi Merce played down suggestions that the world-famous club's network of academies were a way of unearthing players who would then be spirited off to the La Masia academy in Spain, where Lionel Messi learned his trade.

"We are going to give a plus to Denmark, not to steal talents. We will develop and demonstrate our method, and then we will learn from Danish football," he said.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)

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