Lionel Messi: 5 Facts About the Argentine You Probably Didn’t Know
To celebrate the 35th birthday of "La Pulga", we look back and appreciate the player he is and the career he has had. But everyone has their own quirky "fun facts", and Messi is no different. Here are five fun facts about Lionel Messi.
1. Lionel Messi signed his first Barcelona contract on a paper napkin
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Almost everyone uses a paper napkin, throws it away, and forgets about it, right? Barcelona were definitely not throwing this paper napkin away after use, though. On December 14th 2000, they had just formally signed 13-year-old Lionel Messi. This was an on-the-fly decision by ex-Barcelona player and then-Barcelona executive Carles Rexach, at a restaurant with Josep Maria Minguella, a player agent who had brought some players to Barcelona, Joan Gaspart, president of Barcelona at the time, and Messi’s contact in Spain, Horacio Gaggioli, threatened to offer the Argentine to Real Madrid, who were also interested. So Rexach used a paper napkin that was handed to him by a waiter and wrote:
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“In Barcelona, on December 14, 2000 and in the presence of Messrs. Minguella and Horacio, Carlos Rexach, Technical Secretary of F.C.B. is committed under his responsibility and despite some opinions against signing the player Lionel Messi as long as we maintain the agreed amounts.” (rough translation)
The napkin was then signed by Rexach, Minguella and Gaggioli. Despite reported multi-million dollar offers to buy it, the napkin, still legally owned by Gaggioli, is in a safe in the Credit Andorra Bank. Gaggioli is adamant not to sell it, and will only consider loaning it to the Barcelona museum to sit next to the Argentine’s Ballon D’Ors. However, he stated he would not give it to the museum “until Messi retires or leaves the club.”
Seeing as Messi has left the Catalonian giants, the document will likely be loaned only after his retirement, which we hope will not be anytime soon.
2. Messi’s first Barcelona goal was assisted by Ronaldinho
The Brazilian magician, then wearing the number 10 shirt, was playing against Albacete when manager Frank Rijkaard brought on 17-year-old Lionel Messi in the 85th minute with the game closing at 1-0 to Barcelona. In the 90th minute, the Brazilian chipped a ball up to Messi, who duly finished it to score his first goal for Barcelona. Ronaldinho took Messi under his wing, almost acting like a big brother to him as he pushed the youngster to be the best he possibly could be. And it seems Messi took the icon’s advice. When the Brazilian left Barcelona in 2008, Messi took his number 10 shirt
3. In 2006, Barcelona nearly sold Messi
In 2006, with the then-18-year-old just having played 25 matches for the Barcelona senior team that season, Inter Milan of Italy were ready to pay his gargantuan €150m release clause, which would have made him the most expensive player in history, nearly doubling the then-record of €76m set by Real Madrid to buy Zinedine Zidane in 2001. They also promised to triple Messi’s wages, but Messi declined the offer. It could have been a very different career for the Argentine, had he decided to move to Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan and Serie A.
4. Lionel Messi could have played for the Spanish National Team
Adding on to decisions that could have changed the course of Messi’s career, the Spanish Football Federation approached him, requesting he declare for the Spanish national team instead of the Argentinian one. Messi declined the offer, opting to remain committed to attempting to break into the Argentina national team. Had he played for Spain, he would have surely have added a lot to the iconic 2008-2012 team, that won the 2008 and 2012 Euros, along with the 2010 World Cup. But he chose Argentina, with who he has won the Copa America, and the first-time Finalissima against Italy. He is surely the country’s best player since the great Diego Maradona.
5. Messi’s international debut was unique
Unique… for all the wrong reasons! The Argentine was substituted on against Hungary in a friendly on August 17th 2005, and he was sent off within 45 seconds. He was adjudged by the referee to have elbowed a Hungary defender as he dribbled towards goal, and despite protests from his Argentina team-mates, he left the field of play. Disappointing for him, but he kicked on, and is now the Argentina national team’s captain, top appearance maker, and top goal-scorer.
Written by Purv Ashar
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