THE stars of the Beautiful Game are abandoning their usual homes in Europe’s finest football stadiums and heading for Leigh instead.
Forget the Nou Camp or the Allianz Arena in Munich, the borough has become the place to be for the game’s biggest names, with a galaxy of talent descending on the Leigh Sports Village (LSV) over the past month.
First a dream team of Premier League stars, including Liverpool’s striker Luis Suarez, Everton and former Wigan Athletic player Leighton Baines and Manchester City’s marksman Alvaro Negredo, visited Leigh to help shoot an advertising campaign for sportswear giant Adidas a fortnight ago.
The ground was then visited by defending European and world club champions Bayern Munich, with Pep Guardiola’s all-star German side training on the LSV pitch before their 1-1 draw in the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg against Manchester United last Tuesday.
Bayern’s stars, including Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who later put himself at the centre of controversy after being sent off at Old Trafford, went through drills working on their famous ball and passing skills at the home of the Leigh Centurions.
The stars even took time out of their big-match preparation to sign some autographs for the fans who had spotted Bayern’s vivid red team bus parked outside Morrisons.
LSV chief executive Simon Toon said: “When we were asked if we could host a Bayern Munich training session, we were only too happy to help.
“We’ve welcomed countless world-class sports teams here in the past, and to have the reigning European champions is testament to the fantastic facilities we have.
“The feedback we got from Bayern is that they were really impressed with the LSV, and from our point of view you couldn’t have come across a more accommodating set of guys.”
The German team was so impressed with the surroundings in Leigh that they returned to the LSV yesterday morning for a post-match, warm-down session before returning home to Bavaria.
The LSV also hosts a huge range of sports teams from across the North West, with two Championship rugby league clubs Leigh Centurions and Swinton Lions calling the stadium home and the ground hosting the under-21s teams for Manchester United, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers as well as one-off cup fixtures.
To view the official pictures of Bayern Munich’s training session at the LSV, search for FC Bayern on Facebook. A video of the team’s visit to Leigh is also available on the club’s official Youtube channel.