Being able to count Barcelona star David Villa as a footballing mentor, it's little wonder that Theo Markelis is seen as a player of huge potential for Melbourne Victory.
A few cameos is all it has taken for everyone to see Melbourne Victory recruit Theo Markelis has plenty of class. The diminutive winger-come-striker has a stellar touch, amazing control and a good burst of pace.
Markelis moved to Spanish giants Valencia aged 15 and was moulded into a goal-scoring machine at junior level. Unfortunately that success didn-t parlay itself into first-team football, but Markelis still picked up some tips from the very best.
Wind the clock back a few years and Valencia were Copa del ray champions and led by a red-hot Villa and Spain-s all-time leading goalscorer took a keen interest in the young Australian.
It-s obviously a time Markelis remembers fondly and it-s the skills Villa taught him that he hopes to impose on the Hyundai A-League.
“I was really close with David Villa, I would always talk to him and he taught me a lot of things on the pitch,” Markelis told a-league.com.au.
“I got to train with him as well and what I learned were skills, but I also learned that players like and including Villa have a huge passion for the game and that passion is as important as anything and to see that passion amongst the very best players that was an inspiration to me.
“Seeing the way he finishes is unreal, I wish I could do the same thing.”
Watching Markelis train at Gosch-s Paddock, just outside Victory headquarters, it-s plain to see the kid can finish a goal as well, he just needs his chance, and while he hasn-t received it yet it may not be long until Ange Postecoglou is forced to call on a young man who is seen as somewhat of a pet project for the coach.
With both Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson in the frame for international duty, Postecoglou will have a gaping hole up front and out wide; it will be that time when Markelis could take that chance, although he knows his starting opportunity could come at any time.
“You never know (when I might get a start), you have to expect the unexpected from Ange. I hope I get the opportunity to start a game shortly and that-s down to training as hard as I can,” he said.
While some might question the wisdom of coming back from Europe-s top leagues, specifically Spain then Italy with Vicenza to take up a role in an A-League club, Markelis has been pleasantly surprised by the standard so far and has also struck up a friendship with another prominent striker who is helping him develop.
“Coming back home I expected less, but I am loving it. Coming back from Europe I was wondering if it was a good idea or not, but the quality we have with guys like Archie and Flores is great,” he said
“Archie and I are really close, we have a few jokes, but Archie looks at me like a little brother and takes care of me in the change room and the gym, talks to me about what-s wrong and right on the field.
“He-s constantly helping me learn about senior football and I-m learning how to create my own space and try to score goals.”