Living halfway across the world, on your own in a new country is no small feat for anyone.
How about making the move to try and prove yourself on the soccer field at the highest level possible?
That’s been the path chosen by Jack Imperato, an attacking midfielder from Northern California that moved to Spain and joined the Villarreal Academy last summer.
“It’s been the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life and yet the most rewarding,” Imperato told topdrawersoccer.com. “My confidence both on and off the pitch has gone up so much, and I have improved a ton as a player and a person off the field. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for me.”
Imperato, a 2002 and member of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team player pool, emerged as one of the top players in the age group at De Anza Force. Former La Masia Director Albert Puig opened the door for Imperato at the La Liga powerhouse. He saw Imperato play at De Anza, and arranged for the teenager to travel there for a weeklong trial. After impressing, he was offered a youth academy contract and a spot in the academy.
That, combined with Imperato qualifying for an Italian passport, opened the door for him to move to Spain last year (although he didn’t get his FIFA passport until November, after moving to Europe in the summer).
Everything about the move – while extremely demanding – has proved to be a huge reward for Imperato thus far.
“Spain is amazing,” he said. “I love the culture, lifestyle and overall it’s been an amazing experience… The Spanish style of play fits very well with how I like to play. We keep the ball and press hard to win it back.”
A creative, technical midfielder, Imperato’s spent the season playing for Villarreal’s Juvenil B squad. Deployed as a second striker in a 4-4-2, he’s shown the ability to impact the game in the final third, picking up goals and assists on a regular basis.
“It’s been ideal for me and allows me to use my speed and creativity to create goals and score goals,” Imperato said of the team’s tactics.
First day of preseason vs last game of the season. Amazing first year at Villarreal. Now time to relax and disconnect at home so I can come back even stronger to this amazing club💛💛💛 #endavant pic.twitter.com/lLn6GDUnmF— jack imperato (@imperato_jack) June 2, 2019
The day-to-day routine is relatively simple. Imperato lives in a residency program, getting up to have breakfast and continue his education at a British school (Imperato remains college-eligible and has yet to sign a pro contract). After school finishes at 2, he has training, gym work and recovery before completing study hall every night before going to bed.
His family’s been over to visit every few months, and the season wrapped up this week. Imperato will head back home until July, when he’ll fly back to Spain to continue his development with a new preseason.
From an adjustment perspective, he’s started to pick up on Spanish, and will look to continue to climb the ladder when he’s back later this year.
“I live with 90 Spanish boys so it’s either pick it up or you don’t talk too much, so you are kind of forced to speak the language,” Imperato said. “I’m fluent in the Spanish trash talking.”