Saints Under-18 centre-back Ollie Cook has revealed his ambition to learn from Ronald Koeman as he attempts to follow a similar career path to the Dutchman.
The defender was afforded the opportunity along with the rest of the squad on Thursday to tour Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium – a trip that gave the youngsters a chance to immerse themselves in the club’s history and culture.
A memorable part of that was former centre-back Koeman’s defining influence in the 1992 European Cup final, when his drilled free-kick handed the Catalan giants a 1-0 victory at Wembley.
Thursday’s experience served to further Cook’s desire to try and emulate similar success at such a high level.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Ollie said of the Camp Nou to the club’s official YouTube channel. “That’s the goal – to play against the biggest clubs in the world.
“They’ve got some different things to what we have. They’ve got a chapel right before they go out and play. We’re taking in different kinds of culture in football. It’s nice to see that.
“If you follow in the footsteps of a career like that (Koeman’s) then that’s amazing. He won trophies with Barcelona and progressed through with them. He’s ended up at Southampton and now he’s bringing his knowledge.
“Obviously he’s a centre-back, so hopefully one day I can learn from him and take on-board what he has to say.”
Cook, who managed to break through to the U18 set-up towards the latter end of the 2013/14 campaign, has been given the chance to impress and stake a claim for a regular spot at the heart of defence with two 90-minute spells against Villarreal and Girona in the past week.
The 16-year-old has taken his chance well, remaining a strong presence while personnel has changed around him – something he feels has been beneficial.
Asked for this thoughts on the rotation alongside him in Southampton’s rearguard on the Spain tour, Cook replied: “I think it’s good – it’s like what is going to happen in the future. You’re not always going to be playing with the same player every game.
“It’s all about getting used to different people. It could be a new person every week – you never know.
“It’s a good test for me and a good test for them as well playing with me. You’ve got to get used to your teammates before the season starts and then it’s crunch-time.”
Looking ahead to the trip-ending match with RCD Espanyol, Cook is mindful of objectives to raise fitness and put in good performances, but the defender is eager for a victory after falling to 2-0 and 3-1 defeats to Villarreal and Girona respectively.
“I can’t wait for the game on Saturday,” he enthused. “Performance is key but more than anything I’d love a result against them. We’ve got Espanyol and Exeter and then the season starts, so the results start to matter now.
“That’s what pre-season is about. We’re getting the rust out now and looking ahead to Espanyol trying to get results in the next two games before the season starts.
“The last couple of days are for fitness, for me. I'm feeling it a bit now because of training every day and we had two games in quick succession. I want to get the fitness aspect out of it and then the quality pushing forward to the season.”