Since leaving Barcelona in 2009, Eidur Gudjohnsen has led a nomadic football life playing for Monaco, Tottenham (on loan), Stoke City and now Fulham on loan again – separated for the first time in his career from his three sons, who live in Barcelona.
Being apart from Sveinn, 13, Andri, nine, and five-year-old Daniel, as well as his wife Ragnhildur, has been the toughest part of it for Eidur but the consolation is that his two eldest sons are getting arguably the best football education in the world. Both are part of the Barcelona academy where these two little Icelanders are being honed to follow in their father's footsteps.
Eidur, 32, grew up outside his native Iceland, spending seven years in Belgium where his father Arnor played for Anderlecht before Eidur went on to join the PSV Eindhoven academy in Holland. When he left Barcelona for Monaco in 2009 the plan was for his family to join him eventually in the south of France but his spell at the French club got off to a poor start and looked like it might be short-lived so they decided to stay put.
As a result he has had to follow his son's progress with telephone calls and dashes back to Spain whenever days off allow it. Sveinn, a left-winger, is in the Barcelona academy proper, the talent hothouse which produced so many of the current Barcelona team as well as manager Pep Guardiola.
"The set-up is semi-professional," Eidur says. "He turns up for training with his washbag and they get their kit provided. They have to be there 45 minutes before training three times a week and they play every weekend. They have a squad of 22 players and they rotate through. Everyone has their position and they play in a league against boys one year older because, as a team, they are very good. The club want them always to be up against top opposition.
"Andri [a centre-midfielder] is at the Barcelona school, which is open to younger kids to train. They have to have a level of talent to train there and if they don't, the coaches will politely say, 'This might not be for your son'.
"Andri comes home every month with the equivalent of a school report. It has a list of categories: 'Control – left foot; control – right foot; his vision; his attitude; his punctuality; his respect towards team-mates; his respect towards coaches'. There is a list of 50 things that he is marked on – 'below average, average, good, very good' etc. He is nine!
"There are two coaches and I don't know how many kids and they all get a report card. They play every Saturday whether it is against other teams or among themselves. They play in a Barcelona kit, seven-a-side. It is at this school that you see what Barcelona football club is about. They teach them in training at a very young age to control the ball and look around, everyone in their position, the ball played into feet."
As for five-year-old Daniel, his father says: "He loves football but he only wants to start playing when he can train with Barcelona!" The club have hinted strongly that Andri will also be taken into the academy which means both have a chance of following their father and wearing the famous shirt at the Nou Camp. The boys have both said that if they make it as professionals then, like their father and grandfather, they want to represent Iceland.
Eidur famously made his debut for Iceland in 1996 as a 17-year-old substitute coming on for his father Arnor, then 34, although a subsequent injury for Eidur meant they never played at the same time. Eidur says that his grandfather, a fisherman in the northern part of Iceland, might also have made it as a professional footballer had he been given the opportunity.
"They might not become footballers but the oldest one at least seems to be very determined," Eidur says of his sons. "I don't really mind as long as they know right from wrong and respect people around them. Then I'll be the proudest dad in the world."
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