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Assistant coach & GK coach Middlesbrough F.C (EPL)

Leo Percovich played for Nacional, notably winning the Copa Libertadores and Uruguayan First Division. He went on to play for Atlético Mineiro, Guaraní FC, Fluminense FC, Alianza de Lima and Racing de Ferrol.

He appeared six times for the Uruguayan national team.

Leo has had previous coaching stints and training with Stuttgart, Pachuca, Cruzeiro, Valencia, Real Madrid and the National teams of Brazil, France, Uruguay, U.S.A & England.

Leo is currently a Goalkeeper and Assistant Coach at Middlesbrough F.C in the English Premier league.

Leo shares his experience and views on player development in multiple countries he has worked and the attributes a player needed to reach the highest level. Mr. Percovich is also a consultant for E.C.E.S player development.


The Different methods concerning player development in South America, North America & Europe

From my experience of working in South America (Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina), USA and Europe (UK-Spain-Italy) I see a vast difference in development and culture when I compare these three different schools.

In general, when we talk about development, it is important to exclude the top clubs because they have the necessary resources to work at a very high level.

We see the mentality and priorities differ from country to country as we analyze their strengths & weaknesses.

  • Culture and development In South America.

South Americans are very strong technically. Training is about playing soccer. Everything is done with the ball. From a young age, emphasis is on touching, controlling and running with the ball.

Generally, the players have a very short attention span when training does not involve this aspect. We find that interest from the player while training is lost.

The mentality of the player revolves around understanding the game as fun; his priority is to personally enjoy training and then to play for the team. The role and responsibilities of the team are not prioritized in terms of tactical work, discipline, role within the team, and individual positioning.

We see that this school produces very skillful and talented players. They are creative players with very good vision and decision-making under pressure.

The game is played with enjoyment but lacks tactical discipline. The players are usually average athletes who are over zealous in their touching of the ball. The qualities we look for here, is the player’s ability to influence and change the game.


  • Development in the North America

In North America, the development is different. There is a lot of time-spent on field discussing game related situations. Fitness is a priority and training individuals involving the technical aspect come afterward.

So the majority of the session is without the ball or not enough with the ball. I believe sessions should be constructed where time with the ball is included, so at the end of the year the goal is reached where the player has enjoyed the freedom to express and develop his personal skill sets.

If these skills are not developed, the outcome finds a player with great physical attributes but lacks improvisation and decision making to create new circumstances in attacking and defending situations. The player becomes predictable with no accurate distribution and a lack of game understanding due to the player’s limited skill set.

It is important to have good foreign coaches in the United States, who have the knowledge and experience of working with professional development clubs, to build and maintain a high level of standards within development programs.


  • Player development in England

In the UK, development is different to countries like Spain & Italy. The English FA rules and regulations dictate the development, which is held under a very strict program.

Training programs include strength, health and nutrition programs etc.

The outcome, is that England produces players with excellent physical qualities with speed and very good technical abilities.

There is an emphasis on having a professional mentality in terms of respecting the values and ethos of a club along with the responsibility of being a professional player. The end product of the player concerning the correct mentality is definitely one of the best.

In England, they will do whatever it takes, and have the resources to achieve this.

Questions are now being raised about younger players actually spending more time training with the ball and allowing the freedom to make decisions during different moments of the game.

The aim is to produce players able to compete in a game where changes and unexpected situations will determine the outcome


  • During your time in Spain and Italy, which country impressed you with their philosophy on development?

There are similarities in Spain and Italy. The Spanish school of development is one of, if not the best in the world.

There seems to be a correct way in which there is a mix of all aspects and methodologies combined.

Spain manages to develop skillful players, who are very good athletes, with a good perception and understanding of the tactic discipline, roles in the team and individual movements.

During training, everything is done with the ball, this includes tactics and fitness work.

The organization of the sessions over the course of the season makes for a very competitive environment. The player grows in this environment and improves in all areas of fitness, technical, tactical and psychological.


“I believe E.C.E.S is a proper training developmental Centre, because it reunites experience and knowledge on and off the field. All people involved work in top professional organizations, where the player is approached not only as an athlete but also with the true meaning of development in terms of psychology, tactical discipline & understanding, individual development, fitness and nutrition”.