From Full-Time Bricklayer To Newcastle United: The Remarkable Story Of Florent Indalecio

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From Full-Time Bricklayer To Newcastle United: The Remarkable Story Of Florent Indalecio

It is April 2019 and an unemployed Florent Indalecio has just responded to a job advert on Gumtree. "I took a picture wearing all the clothes," he tells SPORTbible. "I said I had previous experience but I didn't. Someone called me three days later at 6am and said, 'I need you to come work with me.'"

At the age of 21, after a number of serious injuries and setbacks in his football career, Indalecio left his home in France to try a new challenge in Sydney. Despite not speaking a word of English and having no experience in the construction industry, he would end up on a building site while working on a holiday visa.

At the weekends, he played in the Australian fourth division for fun.

His lifelong ambition of one day making it at a professional level were fading but two years after having to use Google Translate to communicate with his boss while working 12-hour days, the attacking midfielder is now living his dream of playing for Premier League side Newcastle United.


At his home in the North East, the chatty Frenchman knows he wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for those tough times. "It's an unbelievable story," he says. "But that's life. Because of my past and my story, that's why I have this mentality. If I never worked in a factory or a construction site, things may have been different."

Here is the story of Florent Indalecio; the man who went from working on a construction site after so many setbacks, to wearing the famous black and white at the same club as one of his best friends.

Growing up in the picturesque region of Rhone-Alpes, a football-obsessed Indalecio played for one of the prestigious youth academies in France when he was just nine years old. He impressed in tournaments against some of Europe's biggest clubs, winning games against the likes of Real Madrid, while playing for local side Saint-Etienne.


He would also play alongside Allan Saint-Maximin, who was also making a name for himself in the youth system at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, but away from the pitch, the teenager was struggling at school. It was a major factor in his release from the club, aged 15.

"If you don't have a good attitude at school, the club will release you," he tells SPORTbible. "They told me they wouldn't offer me another year. I was really young so, when they said that, it was normal but after a year or two, I had a lot of regrets because when you leave a professional club, it's very difficult to find another team."

There were never any doubts over his playing ability at Saint-Etienne but it was Indalecio's behaviour that let him down at a crucial stage of his career.

Florent struggled to find another professional club after that. To his credit, he continued to try and impress with lower league side ASF Andrezieux but doctors soon delivered some heartbreaking news. He was diagnosed with a tumour in his knee.


"I stopped playing all together for 18 months," he says. "I went to the hospital and after the surgery, they put a rod in my leg. The doctor told me that I might not play football again. He said it might be finished for you. It was a very big surgery."

St Etienne badge. Image: PA
St Etienne badge. Image: PA

Learning from his previous mistakes, Indalecio worked hard to get back to full fitness - despite doubts from the doctor about whether he would be able to play football again. He had lost all the muscle in his leg, so it was a case of starting again from scratch.

"I just worked hard after that in the gym. Every single day; seven days a week. I would go with my friend, who helped me a lot. We trained together and I eventually started to play again after a year and a half. To get back to fitness, I started playing for a smaller club."


He would feature in 10 games at lower-league level, scoring six goals. But ultimately, Indalecio wanted to be more competitive so he decided to go for trials in the United States - where the youth academy system is very different for overseas players.

"I moved to America at 18 for a trial at a club in Miami. In the US, it's different. If you want to find a professional or semi-pro team, you go on a website, you do the try-outs and pay money. You play for two days and after, they will tell you if they will or won't sign you.

"Around 300 people turned up that week. I was playing well and I was only 18. They decided to sign me and said come back next month."


Indalecio was chosen alongside 15 other hopefuls to play in Miami and he starred in several pre-season games, once again impressing with his pace and skill in wide areas, but it was a knee injury that scuppered his progress again.

"It was the same knee where I had the surgery. So I stopped playing for two or three weeks but when I returned, I felt pain again. I wasn't at my best. After that, I went back to France. I said to the coach that I was going back. I didn't want to stay in America."

Image: Instagram
Image: Instagram

It was a difficult decision but Indalecio decided to push his dream of playing professionally to one side, instead returning to his home in France for work.

"When you play football and you're not professional, it's hard to survive," he tells us. "I was playing in the fifth division in France for example and I needed to pay my rent as well as food and my car. So I was working at the same time while trying to play football."

The French forward spent a year juggling full-time work with playing for lower-league side Hauts Lyonnais. In that short period, the local job centre found him work at a chemical factory, as well as a normal factory. He also earned money at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard; the home stadium of Saint-Etienne.

"I was handing out drinks before the game and at half-time. I was just trying to earn some money. I was just trying to live a normal life. At that time, I was also going to a job centre, where you give in a CV, and they were trying to find me jobs."

Throughout this difficult period, he would constantly think about football. So when he noticed that a former teammate, Cuban Frank Lopez, posted a picture on Instagram playing for LA Galaxy II, he tried his luck again in America.

He eventually picked up a trial at the second-tier side but once again, things didn't go to plan.

"I played three games, scored four goals and picked up two assists but they chose not to sign me. But in my head, I said 'no problem'. I'm going to continue to work hard and if I have another opportunity one day, I'm going to be successful."

Image: Instagram
Image: Instagram

The sheer amount of knockbacks he suffered throughout his teenage years would deter many from continuing in their journey. Indalecio, however, was determined to make his dream become a reality.

"When you know what real life is like, your mentality changes," he told us. "When you wake up at 4 or 5am, it's hard. When you play as a youngster, when you're always play football, you don't know real life. That's why some players that make big money when they are young can do the wrong things.

"They might not appreciate the money. For example, when you buy a jacket for €3,000, you don't understand how much that is worth to some people. Some people in France, they live on €1,000 euros a month. I think that's the mentality you need to have."

It was that mentality that spurred him on as he returned to his home in Saint-Etienne.

"Two months after that trial in Los Angeles, I was in France again, just thinking every day where I can find a good club. In my city, there are two clubs. One pro team and another are lower league. You are not going to be professional. It would be very hard because they play in the fourth division. So, I was thinking a lot."

As he tried to find a solution, Indalecio was contacted by a friend living in Australia who worked in construction. He decided to take a punt, despite his total lack of experience on a building site. "I had never worked in construction before," he says. "It's hard. It's hard to work and play football at the same time."

Despite not speaking a word of English at the time, Florent responded to a job advert on Gumtree in Australia.

He took a picture in full protective building clothes and said he had experience on a site. In reality, he had all the gear but no idea.

"Someone called me three days later at 5 or 6am. He said I need you to come work with me. But because I'd never spoken English before, I rejected the call and replied by message. I used Google translate and said, 'Just give me an hour and I'll be there on the construction site.' It was an Irish guy and even now, we are really good friends."

He managed to plod along by simply watching how the labourers and bricklayers worked, and picked it up from there. "I said nothing," he explains. "My English was very bad. I only knew 'Hello' and 'How are you?' I didn't even understand 'Can you get mix?'

"My boss just knew I was working hard and he gave me a chance every day to continue with him."

Image: Florent Indalecio
Image: Florent Indalecio
Image: Florent Indalecio
Image: Florent Indalecio

While working long and demanding days through the week, Indalecio, who had also taken a part-time job working in a department store, was playing football at the end of the week. Although at this stage, he admits it was just for fun.

"I was very tired. You wake up everyday at 5am, go to work on the construction site - sometimes you don't even have time for a drink because the bricklayers need mud and bricks - and if you do the mix, you need a wheelbarrow. You don't have time to do anything else. Bricks, bricks, bricks. Mud, mud, mud.

"My boss used to give me 30 minutes for eating and then it was back to work again. In fact, I was doing two jobs at one point. My routine was 7am to 3pm in construction, go back home, take a shower. 6pm to 2am at Myer department store and repeat. So I was only sleeping for three hours. I was drinking a lot of Red Bull."

Despite the long hours, he was determined to still showcase his talents on the pitch, although because of the rules in Australia - where clubs can only sign two players from overseas - he wasn't able to play competitively when he first arrived in the country.

"It was April time and I found a club in June, but the season is only six months when you play in the second and third division. They said to me we already have those two players so if we sign you, we have released one of the others. So I said, no problem, I'm going to come back next season."

Indalecio went on to make two appearances for New South Wales fourth-division side Fraser Park FC.

"They paid me. It was a good club with good people." he says. "I was not playing for the money. They just gave me it because I was good on the pitch. I just played for enjoyment."

Image: Alen Delic for FNSW
Image: Alen Delic for FNSW

He was happy in Australia but at the same time, that driving ambition to make it professionally was still in the back of his head. This is where a conversation with former teammate Saint-Maximin happened - a chat that would change his life forever.

"I was taking to my friend Allan, and he said to me, 'How are you?', 'How's life in Australia?' and 'Are you happy?'

"I said to him that I was happy to live in Sydney, but I'm working in construction and it's something I don't want to do forever. I only wanted to play football. So he said to me, if you want, after this season, you can come to England and I can help you find something.

"We never spoke about Newcastle. He just said he would try and help me find a club maybe in the lower divisions."

Because of the COVID situation, the season in Australia was stopped. It meant that Indalecio's only income was from construction. "I just wasn't very happy," he says. "When you do both, it's good to do something after a working week. But without football, it was difficult."

At the same time, conversations between himself and Saint-Maximin were ongoing. "He said to me, 'You can come and I'll be here for you. I'll look after you.' I agreed and said I could come now, so I booked a flight and made the move to England."

Saint-Maximin welcomed his friend into his house and they lived together for a couple of months.

"Me and Allan have a really great relationship," Indalecio says. "This guy has never changed. If he can help someone, not only me, then he will. Sometimes some players will achieve success and forget everyone but not Allan. He is a top guy."

Despite the pair not even speaking about a possible move to Newcastle, the French winger was already making moves behind the scenes to try and make it happen.

"He found me a trial at Newcastle because he was talking with the club about me. He asked if it was possible to give me a chance. I was playing well and I remember on the last week of my trial, I gave everything on the pitch. I was scoring every session. I said in my head, I need to score every day because to stand out.

"I then scored that overhead kick from a corner."

After impressing in his trial, Steve Nixon, the director at Newcastle, handed Florent Indalecio a one-year contract. It was a life-changing moment for the Frenchman.

"I was so happy," he says. "My life changed. I only play football and that's what I always wanted."

So what's life been like at Newcastle since joining? On the pitch, the 23-year-old has established himself as a regular starter for the club's U23 side and off the field, he is enjoying life in the North East.

"Things are good. A lot of rain!" he laughs. "That's English weather though. I love to be here. When you play football, for me, England is the country of football. The Premier League is the best league in Europe. Championship is a really good level too.

"I'm very proud and happy to be playing here. It's a really good chance for me here at Newcastle. I know a lot of players would like to have this opportunity so I know I'm going to give everything on and off the pitch in the next months."

In the space of just a few months, Indalecio went from working on a construction site while playing in the Australian fourth-tier to playing alongside the likes of Matty Longstaff and Christian Atsu. It's a transition he has needed to quickly adapt to.

"If you don't run in England, if you don't want to work hard, you can't play here," he says. "That's why players from overseas come here and don't become a success. Because they don't want to work hard. It's not only about your skill. It's a mentality thing. You need to work hard and give 100% all the time."

After our lengthy chat, I was keen to express my appreciation for Indalecio's never-give-up attitude. He gave a typically humble and grounded response.

"It's an unbelievable story. But that's life," he says. "Because of my past and my story, that's why I have this mentality. If I never worked in a factory or ended up working on a construction site, things may have been different. It wasn't easy going to Australia by myself. It was only me and my friend. No family. No other friends. It was so far from home.

"Sometimes you think about your parents and what's happening at home. England is different. It's only an hour flight home. But you need to fight for your dream. And that's what I did."

His self-belief is quite extraordinary. He continued, saying: "Remember that one day, I'm going to play Premier League or Championship. Remember that.

"I'm not going to leave England before I do that. I don't care about the other countries that can pay you a lot of money. I want to play here. If I have to play League Two next season, like Jamie Vardy for example, I'm going to do this. I don't mind.

"Trust me. I just play and one day, I will play at a high level. Because I believe in me. I believe in my ability."

Featured Image Credit: Florent Indalecio/Instagram/Newcastle United

Topics: Spotlight, Football, Premier League, Newcastle United

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