Former Spain coach del Bosque would play Bolt in defence
Can eight-time Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt make it into professional football at the age of 32?
Following the Jamaican's first appearance for the A-League's Central Coast Mariners, that's the question we asked Spain’s only FIFA World Cup-winning coach Vicente del Bosque.
“For a team that counter attacks hard and transitions quickly into open space, sure (he would fit in). It would be possible, of course,” the 67-year-old exclusively told the Olympic Channel.
Bolt made his debut on the left wing but the former Real Madrid boss thinks the fastest man on earth should play elsewhere.
“With space, he could be a very good footballer.
"He could be a full-back that covers a lot of space, but it depends, because it's not just about covering 100, or 60 or 70 metres of the pitch," del Bosque said.
"It's about doing it many times over and that requires stamina which I don’t know whether he has or not — although I’m sure he has prepared. Without a doubt as a full-back, with his back towards the crowd and the touchline, that’s where he would be most useful."
—Vicente del Bosque on Usain Bolt
Since retiring from track and field in 2017, Bolt has chased his lifelong dream of playing for a professional football team.
On 31 August, the 32-year-old finally achieved that goal.
He appeared as a substitute for the Central Coast Mariners with 19 minutes left in a pre-season friendly.
The Jamaican star, who still holds the 100m world record of 9.58 seconds, admitted he was struggling to adapt to the pace and rhythm of football.
Despite showing some decent footwork and getting close to scoring, he ultimately didn’t make much of an impact in his team's 6–1 victory.
But del Bosque believes that if Bolt makes it as a footballer, it'll rank alongside the athletics legend's best achievements.
"To start playing professional football at the age of 32 isn’t normal," the UEFA Champions League and two-time UEFA European Championship-winning coach explained.
"It's difficult because despite being in peak physical condition, I believe that the technical part is the fundamental part of football. A player's fantastic conditioning — being fast, agile, powerful — should support the technical ability.
"He will probably learn the tactical side and get to understand the game better both defensively and offensively. I’m sure he will find a solution to all of that, but the most difficult part will be to acquire the technical skills you need for any play.
"Control, passing, dribbling, a good touch on the ball. Skills that you normally have had since childhood."
Bolt's previous experience on the football field was limited to a charity match run-out at Old Trafford, training spells with Borussia Dortmund and Mamelodi Sundowns and a 20-minute appearance for Norwegian club Strømsgodset in a friendly.
This time the former sprinter has clearly expressed his desire to earn a contract with the Mariners.
Should he fail in Australia, del Bosque has some advice as to which type of team he should look for next.
"A team that doesn’t dominate possession and doesn’t control the game.
"One that doesn’t need to keep the ball and that doesn’t leave space to the opponent, and that afterwards has some quick transitions. There, you can surely make use of Usain’s speed."
Del Bosque also gave his backing to the 11-time world champion's decision to switch sports.
"He has won a lot during his 32 years of life and, he has earned the right to say: 'Hey, I want to be a footballer.'"
— Vicente del Bosque
"The level at which he can play, whether it is professionally or a bit lower, will show in his performance," he added as he watched some videos of the sprint king in action.
"But it's true that in these clips I see a very optimistic player who is smiling all the time like he was living the dream of any kid."
Bolt has previously said that he believes he has five years of football in him. Whether he achieves that or not is a different matter.