ACCRINGTON Stanley do not sign former Real Madrid players very often, and Gerardo Bruna once left the Spanish club furious by actually turning down a professional contract at the Bernabeu.

Bruna was born in the Argentinian city of Mendoza, whose notable citizens include former Blackburn Rovers striker Franco Di Santo.

The winger moved to Spain at a young age and was then snapped up by Real Madrid - spending five years at the club between 2002 and 2007.

Bruna - dubbed ‘the next Lionel Messi’ - was offered a professional contract by Madrid but infuriated Real by instead opting to join Liverpool, who were then managed by Spanish boss Rafa Benitez.

"My father agreed with me that moving here would be a great opportunity,” Bruna said at the time.

“I already knew about Liverpool from the Champions League, the final we won and the final we lost.

“These games, as well as the Chelsea semi-finals, made a big impression on me."

Madrid youth coach Michel, who had a glittering career with both Real and Spain, criticised Bruna’s decision.

“I was surprised when Bruna left because he had been with us for three years and, as soon as he was about to mature, Liverpool took him," he said.

"How many young players taken by Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have actually played for their first team?

"That is what happens all the time in England. When they see someone they like, they take him.

"They sign the boy to a contract, make all sorts of promises and then put him in their reserves and never give him a competitive game."

Sadly, Michel’s prophecy came true. Bruna appeared for Spain’s under 17s team alongside Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara and former Blackburn forward Ruben Rochina, and then also gained a call-up to the Argentina under 20s squad, but he never made a first-team appearance for Liverpool.

He later moved on to Blackpool, Huesca, Tranmere, Conference South side Whitehawk and now Stanley.

“It’s really good to sign here,” said Bruna, who could make his Stanley debut at Plymouth on Saturday.

“I’ve been training here for a couple of weeks and I’ve enjoyed it.

“This is a good opportunity for me to start playing games and play as many games as I can.

“I’ve been surprised since I had the opportunity to come here. I think it’s a good club.

“Obviously I was at Madrid and Liverpool when I was young but I’m here to play football and enjoy my football.

"Hopefully I can do that here for Accrington."