For all the debate surrounding whether the A-League is or is not a developmental league, there has been an influx of much-ballyhooed youngsters into the competition in recent times.
Phenoms such as Jacob Italiano, Nathanial Atkinson, Danny de Silva, Connor O’Toole, Christian Theoharous, Daniel Arzani, Keanu Baccus, Lachlan Wales and Jordan O’Doherty have all impressed when given first team opportunities at their respective clubs this season.
Denis Genreau may have only played 10 minutes during this season, pressed into action in Melbourne City’s Round 20 loss to Sydney FC after Osama Malik pulled up lame during the warmup, but the powers that be at City still have big plans for the 18-year-old.
Genreau has been a constant presence in City’s extended matchday squads this year and, despite his lack of first team minutes in City’s crowded midfield, he remains a player that the City staff are very high on.
Speaking after a sprints and weights session at City’s Bundoora headquarters, the youngster says he is disappointed to have not yet broken into the City first team, but has taken the opportunity to play regular minutes with City’s youth team to work on other facets of his game.
“That was my goal this year (breaking into the first team),” he said.
“But it’s been a bit difficult with the signings (City signed midfielders Dario Vidosic and Oliver Bozanic during the campaign).
“My goal is still to break into the first team and play as many games as I can, to continue to work on what I need to work on and keep getting better at what I’m good at.
“I obviously haven’t had much game time with the senior team, but with the youth team, I’ve been able to work on my leadership skills and communication off the ball.
“Acting as a leader on the field is something I’ve needed to work on and I’ve put in a lot of effort to lead the team.”
Genreau, of course, is attempting to break into the first team of City head coach Warren Joyce.
Joyce was widely recognised as an authority on youth development upon his appointment at City prior to the 17-18 season, having in his time as a Manchester United assistant under Sir Alex Ferguson played a significant role in the development of players such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Danny Drinkwater and Ryan Shawcross.
Since arriving at the CFA, Joyce has further demonstrated a willingness to play youth, incorporating players such as Arzani, Atkinson and Connor Metcalfe into his sides throughout the course of the campaign.
Genreau says there has been an adjustment period going from the previous City regimes of John van‘t Schip and Michael Valkanis to Joyce, but he is a better player for the switch.
“It’s been a very different style from last year,” Genreau explained.
“It’s something I’m not used to.
“With Warren coming in, he’s got that English style, and I think I’ve learned a lot of different things in my football – worked on areas I wasn’t as good at last year.
“So I think this year for me has been about working on my weaknesses, trying to become the most complete footballer I can.”
Genreau on Monday was the recipient of Melbourne City’s La Trobe University Education Award, recognised for his academic achievements while juggling school and football.
“I was in year 12 last year when I was doing preseason with Warren,” Genreau recounted.
“I also had to do exams in Vietnam when I was in the Aussie team, that was quite a difficult thing because my flights got delayed so I didn’t get much sleep before my exams.
The Aussie team referenced was Australia’s Under-19 squad, which Genreau was a part of in November of 2017 as the Young Socceroos qualified for the 2018 U19 AFC Championship qualifiers in Indonesia.
Genreau looked back on that experience fondly and says he is looking forward to the October tournament, to be played in Indonesia.
“It was an awesome experience,” he recounted.
“I was captain for that team, so it was an awesome experience to travel with the boys and get to know other players of your age around Australia and compare yourself, as well as the players from overseas.
“It’s an awesome experience to travel and get that international experience. I learned a lot from the games against Hong Kong and North Korea, that Asian style of football is very different from what I’m used to, so I learnt a lot from those two games.
“Hopefully make the team (for October), but I think there’ll be a few camps before that. The tournament’s also to qualify for the World Cup so I’m looking forward to that.”
Genreau, much like fellow his fellow Young Socceroo and City teammate Arzani, is not an Australian by birth, having been born in Paris, France.
“I came out here when I was two years old,” he said.
“My parents came here for their honeymoon and they really liked it so they wanted to live here.
“Originally, they moved to Adelaide just for a bit of work and then they moved to Melbourne. We speak French at home.”
Asked what that will mean for him when the Socceroos run out to face France in their opening game of the World Cup in Kazan on 16 June, Genreau was bashful.
“When France play the Roos I think I’ll support the Roos as the underdogs,” he said with a grin.
“But if France wins then I won’t be too disappointed either.”