EXCLUSIVE: Vieira twins would “travel up to three hours a day” to live their dream

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Photo: leedsunited.com

Impressively named Leeds United twin brothers Ronaldo and Romario Vieira would “travel up to three hours a day” for five years to ensure they could follow their dream of becoming professional footballers, their former Academy manager Michael Morton has revealed.

Morton, of the i2i Football Academy where the twins spent five years, has described the fairytale story of Leeds’ newest kids on the block.

After an eventful summer transfer window, Leeds United arguably secured the best business of the summer just a matter of hours after the deadline.

Teenage midfielder Ronaldo Vieira signed a new three-year contract this week and was also given an added boost when his twin brother, Romario Vieira, also signed a deal with the Yorkshire club.

Ronaldo and Romario are each former members of the i2i Football Academy. The pair were based in York at its main base, but the academy has parts in Canada and the USA.

The academy is made up of numerous high quality coaches including head coach Simon Collins (formerly a coach of Manchester City and Leeds United) and former Leeds United striker Richard Cresswell.

This week, we put Michael Morton in the spotlight for a question and answer session to seek justification of the hype around the club about Ronaldo Vieira, and what to expect from Leeds’ newest addition, his twin brother Romario.

Have you always believed that Ronaldo and Romario were destined for big things? 

“Since we (me & Simon Collins) first saw Ronaldo & Romario at the age of 13 years old we new they had something special & they would do anything to become professional footballers. As young boys they were always very good technically and tactically but initially struggled with the physicality of the English game.”

“When we got them full-time at the age of 16 Ronaldo adjusted very well playing against senior players. After returning from a tournament in France we new that he was destined to big things.”

“As for Romario, he has always been a top class player but it has just taken him an extra eight months to develop into a young man, that’s the beauty about our programme as we try to give young players more time to develop like in other countries.”

Has it been an easy ride for the pair? Have they had to overcome anything to make it to where they are today?

“The brothers travelled up to three hours every day to be a part of our academy and I could count on one hand how many training practices they missed in two years. Unbelievable for 15/16 year old lads.”

“At 13 years old they could hardy speak English and they travelled all over the place by any means of transport. You could tell them to be anywhere at any time and they were always there. Even to this day I don’t know how they did it.”

“The biggest test of Romario’s career to date was last year. From the day they were born they did everything together and suddenly Ronaldo signed for Leeds which left Romario traveling a three hour round trip to training and to games everyday which must of been so tough for a 17 year old lad. He was so determined and fully deserves his chance.”

We have already seen the potential of Ronaldo in the short time since he made his debut for Leeds, do you feel Romario is capable of being as good?

“Romario is 100% not living in the shadows of his twin brother Ronaldo, he gained this contract on his own Merit and if it wasn’t going to be Leeds United he signed for he definitely would of made it somewhere else. I’m just glad he has signed for such a great club like Leeds United.”

Ronaldo was a relatively unknown player but has made a sharp rise to the first team, why do you think this happened? 

“For me the reason why he has played first team football at the age of 17/18 is because of the calm mentality as shown against Atlanta. He is fearless. The scary thing is Ronaldo’s best attribute is his ability to see a pass and control the tempo of a game. In the games I have seen so far he hasn’t quite hit the heights I know he is capable of but I’m sure that will come playing under Gary Monk and with more first team football.”

Can you pinpoint a certain moment where you knew Ronaldo was destined for big things?

“The first thing that springs to mind was when he played in a cup Final for i2i against a French Premier League team over in France. This was the first time we saw him move through the gears and totally dominate the game from start to finish. Remarkably, he was only 15 playing against full-time 19 year olds. When he came off the field he was given a standing ovation by the crowd, this was when we knew he was going onto big things.”

Michael Morton was also full of praise for his “right-hand man” Simon Collins throughout and said that he was a crucial part of the development of the brothers.

Where do you expect Romario to play if given a chance? 

“It’s funny actually, we played Romario out of position for a full season. He did a great job for us and the team but myself and Simon knew we needed to get more from him because he had so much talent.

“That pre-season Ronaldo headed to Leeds so we decided to stick Romario in is brothers position to see how he did, he was unbelievable. He is very defensive minded and doesn’t mind doing all the ugly jobs but I must say he is exceptional at what he does for such a young man, he recognises danger well and breaks up so many attacks, he will play anywhere Monk tells him to play but he much prefers the ‘Makelele’ role.”

The i2i Football Academy has had a brilliant summer. Michael was also full of praise for another former member of the academy, Alfie Beeston, who recently scored on debut for his new club Doncaster Rovers.

You can follow the academy on twitter ‘@i2i_Academy’ to witness the superb work which has allowed Leeds United to claim the signatures of two fine young men with incredible potential.