LOOKING at the grainy photograph of a young Keith Lasley alongside veteran Motherwell teammate Roberto Martinez, it may be hard to believe where either party has ended up.

It was 2002, and a fresh-faced Lasley was making his first tentative steps in football as a promising graduate of the Fir Park production line. The man next to him was a seasoned professional, who had come north to try and wring the last out of his ageing legs before hanging up his boots.

As a midfield partnership, it never quite worked out, with the speed of the Scottish game proving out of step with Martinez’s languid style. Lasley went on of course to earn legendary status at the club and eventually the captaincy, before joining Stephen Robinson’s backroom team as assistant manager last season.

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Martinez, well, has never looked back. His coaching career took him to the FA Cup with Wigan, from Swansea City to Everton and now, remarkably, to the semi-final of the World Cup as head coach of Belgium as they face France tonight.

Lasley can’t claim any prescience over Martinez’s credentials to reach such heights, but he does recall that even back then, he could see the Spaniard had a future in the dugout.

“I was looking back at that picture and I couldn’t actually believe it was me,” Lasley laughed. “I had to double-check because of the clean-shaven look, the lack of grey hair and the tub of wet-look gel I had on.

“Back then, Roberto was a really good guy around the dressing room. He was very lively, and he was really great with me and all the younger players like Stevie Hammell and James McFadden.

“He was obsessed with football. He was a guy you thought would have a future in coaching. It’s easy to say that in hindsight, but you could see the signs. He was always talking about tactics. He was a laugher and a joker Roberto, but when he spoke about football you could tell that he did like that side of it.

“He was a pundit in the infancy of Sky Sports showing Spanish football, and he always spoke about the game from an analytical background.

“Did I think he would be preparing one day for a World Cup semi-final? Probably not. But it didn’t surprise me that when he left Motherwell he went into management, and I remember thinking that he would do well.”

Unfortunately, Martinez never showed the Motherwell supporters the best of his ability on the field. Lasley laughs through gritted teeth when the subject of the Spaniard’s debut is brought up, a 5-2 thumping from Dunfermline on the opening day of the 2001/02 season that Martinez - and a few of his teammates - never really recovered from in a Motherwell jersey.

The Saint Petersburg Stadium this evening will be a long way from that grim day at East End Park.

“I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that it was a lively dressing room afterwards,” Lasley said.

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“It wasn’t Roberto’s fault, but it just meant he got off to a bad start and he never managed to really establish himself at all.

“That was a shame, because in training you could tell he had really good attributes, particularly technically with the ball. Perhaps Scottish football wasn’t the platform for him to show that quality. I think he was a better player than he showed in his time at Motherwell.”

So, was it the experience of helping young players like Lasley that allowed Martinez to go on and marshal the talents of the likes of Eden Hazard?

“I think we’re the same height, but that’s where the comparison stops,” said Lasley.

But even without the involvement of his old friend, Lasley would have been rooting for Belgium to win the World Cup, particularly given the large English contingent currently within the Fir Park dressing room.

“I’ll certainly be cheering them on, particularly if they reach the final and they come up against England,” he said. “I’ll have the full Belgium strip on and the scarf if that happens.

“It’s a tough dressing room at Fir Park at the minute, we’ve got a few of them in there, so hopefully it’s not coming home.”