AN AMBITIOUS young Australian footballer is among the finalists in a worldwide search to find the next Lionel Messi.
Spanish football agent Josep Maria Minguella brought Messi to Barcelona and is now on the lookout for the next superstar through Fieldoo, an online meeting ground for players and agents.
Canberra-born footballer Nick Humphries has made the final 20 out of over 1,500 applicants and is now in line to win a trial with a Spanish La Liga or Segunda Division club.
But just a year ago, he was representing Woden Valley in the Canberra Premier League.
Humphries, 20, has had numerous trials and stints at clubs around Europe but despite being knocked back each time, he has bounced back even more determined to improve himself.
Now he might just be in reach of the pro contract of his dreams.
“About a year ago I stumbled upon Fieldoo and saw they connected agents with players.” Humphries told au.fourfourtwo.com. “Last month I saw the ‘Minguella Challenge’ opportunity on the website and applied.
“I didn't expect anything would happen, especially when most players have a lot more experience with pro clubs than I do, plus there's the Australian stigma attached.
“But I guess Minguella and his team must have seen something in me.”
As a 16-year-old Humphries picked up a self-help book and it inspired him to become a professional footballer, despite only being a self-confessed average player at a local club at the time.
But he hopes his determination and passion will take him to the next level.
“If there is one thing I love about football, it's the passion.” said Humphries. “There's nothing more exhilarating for me than hearing the chants and roars of supporters in a stadium packed with tens of thousands of people.
“In my free time, I would always be looking up YouTube videos of these electric atmospheres, like Liverpool fans singing ‘You Never Walk Alone’.
“I don't know why, but sometimes I would literally get tears in my eyes from just watching them and still do. “
After sending out emails to a dozen professional clubs in hope of a chance to show what could offer, AFC Wimbledon, then in the English fifth-tier, invited him for a trial.
“I trained with their U17s and I was told I wasn't good enough after two or three training sessions.” he said. “I brushed that experience off, went back home and kept training with the goal of improving.”
At the end of that year, Humphries got the opportunity to train with the Australian U17 side after his email asking to continue his “professional training regime” was answered.
“That was an amazing opportunity for me.” he said. “Training in a full-time environment where the pitch was perfect, kits were laid out nicely and the balls used were the best you could get.
“But after two trainings the coach thought I was nowhere near a level to compete in a youth world cup.”
Despite the constant disappointments, Humphries continued to work hard and was offered a trial for the U19 squad of Vasas SC in Hungary. When that did not work out, he moved on to Kazincbarcika SC in the country’s second division for a spot in their senior squad.
“I trained nervously, but well enough so I could play in an away friendly matched they organised.” he said. “I had one of the best games of my life.
“I played 90 minutes, scored a goal and created a few chances for other players.
“After that game, the club offered me an contract, but not under the conditions that would put me in a safe position. But still, that was a shining moment for me.
“Just two years prior I was nothing, now I was worth something in football.”
With short spells at Montrose FC, FC Volendam and most currently JOS Watergraafsmeer, Humphries must now play the waiting game in the hope of a trial at a Spanish club.
“I'll have to submit a full match video and do a video interview and then they'll make a final decision.” he said. “I'll keep on training everyday, mostly by myself like I have for the past four years.
“If nothing happens then I'll stay patient for the next opportunity.”