- Lionel Messi was just 14 when he joined Barcelona FC
- Teammates recall he was quiet and reserved
- Defenders hated to practice with him
Lionel Messi joined Barcelona Football Club in 2002 as a diminutive 14-year old. He made an impact from the very first time he touched a ball. Messi had arrived from Rosario in Argentina without much of a fuss.
Messi’s first game for Barcelona’s Cadete B team provided the team with their first ever win over arch-rivals Espanyol Cadete A. Marc Valliente was the team captain on that day and says it was clear that Messi was something special.
In those days new arrivals were all asked in which position they play. Rudolf Borrell asked the young Messi and he says the little guy said in a whisper “as a forward,’’ before he once more sat quietly in a corner.
Briefly.co.za learned from Goal.com that another teammate Roger Gribet who joined at the same time as Messi said the small Argentine amazed him. Gribet recalls that his own imposing physical size had opened doors for him while Messi was small even at such a young age.
Up to this point, Messi had gone largely unnoticed both on and off the field. Roger Franch says while all the other guys were rowdy Messi was almost always quiet and alone.
Messi’s teammates all agree that it was obvious that Messi was special. They say he could do things none of them could match or even dream of matching. His speed and control were universally admired although defenders hated to train against him.
Franch says Messi was at least three levels above anyone else at any given time. He says a group of defenders wanted to gang up on Messi during training to see what he was really made of but their plan failed because they couldn’t get close to touching him.
Messi began bonding with his teammates during a tournament in Venice, he started making jokes and although he was still shy he was opening up. It was on this trip that his teammates started to call him “enano” which means dwarf.
Messi didn’t take the nickname as a slight and actually bonded with his teammates. Roger Gribet who was a striker for the team says he is convinced that if he saw Messi now they would hug and chat as if they still knew each other.
His former teammates say they are not surprised by the success he has achieved because no one could stop him in 2002 and no one can stop him in 2017.
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