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The coach who discovered Lionel Messi has revealed the three different things that could have stopped him from becoming one of the best players of all time.
After winning the World Cup in 2022 and his eighth Ballon d’Or in 2023, Messi was named earlier this year as the world’s best player by FIFA for a second year in a row.
After joining the Barcelona academy at the age of 12, he has enjoyed a glittering career becoming one of the Catalan side’s most decorated players ever.
Discussing the player, former Barcelona coach and player Carles Rexach – who first found Messi when he trialled at the age of 12 – shed light on what he had to avoid to become so great.
Spaniard Rexach, known as ‘Charly’, told The Sun in an interview Messi had to ensure he kept his sanity and interest in football and avoided injury.
‘I was in Argentina when they first told me about this lad called Messi,’ he said.
‘But I thought they were talking about a boy who was maybe 18 or 20. I thought, since I’m in Argentina, I’ll take a look at him.
‘But of course, when they told me that the lad was 12 years old, I was a little surprised.’
Speaking about his performance, the scout added: ‘Football is a team game, right? But this kid could play all on his own, he took the ball and beat other players and scored a goal.
‘He had abnormal ability. All instinct. He was born to play football. So when I got back to the bench I said “we have to sign him! That kid is from another galaxy”.
‘Physically he was very small – a tiny little thing – but when you saw him play, he was something else. The same as he is now.’
Rexach did admit, however, there was a great deal of suffering in his story and a lot could have gone wrong.
‘When people hear Messi’s story it seems like a fairy tale. Yet to get there he really had to suffer. But this suffering made him stronger.
‘It would be very easy for me to say that I knew what he’d become. But no. What I saw was that Messi was a boy that, if nothing happened to him – if he didn’t go crazy or decide not to play football anymore or get badly hurt – he would surely become a player of the highest level.
‘But the football played by Barcelona has been perfect for him too. Hunger has come together with the desire to eat. And of course, it is natural that this combination over the years has become explosive.’
Earlier this month shocking footage emerged showing Chelsea players manhandle Messi in 2006.
Playing at Stamford Bridge, Messi can be seen getting bundled over in the box before receiving a horror studs-up challenge.
He is then full on body slammed by Chelsea’s left-back after Arjen Robben tried to dispossess him in the corner of the pitch.
One fan wrote on X: ‘Those tackles are straight reds today lol,’ while another added: ‘How tf did he stand up again after this career ending tackle.’