FEATURE: A very different Lionel Messi story…

Now then, run through your mind and think of all the Lionel Messi stories you’ve heard. Heard the one about him joining Barcelona? Heard the one about his Napkin contract? But have you ever heard the one about childish behaviour nearly ruining him?

Connor Parry has a story that changed football and not many of you will know about this, so sit back, relax and continue reading.

As a kid, Messi was diagnosed with Growth Hormone problems and coming from a poor background his family couldn’t pay the fees and neither could most of the local clubs around his surrounding Rosario home. Fortunately one club could pay for the medical fees and liked what they saw in Leo, Argentinian giants River Plate. Messi was a 12 year old and had been given a trial at River Plate along with his friend Leandro Gimenez. It was January 2000 and Messi and his friend were in a car heading towards the capital Buenos Aires. Both dazzled in the trial with Messi scoring EIGHT in a 15-0 win. River Plate wanted both players but had a policy where they could only house players over 13, with both being 12 this was a problem. If a player was under 13 they would have to stay with family or friends in the capital till they turned 13. Gimenez was fine, he had family in the capital but Messi didn’t so asked his friend if he could stay with him and his family and like any good friend Gimenez said yes. You’re probably reading this thinking all this has been pointless but what came next changed football forever.

Messi and Gimenez had been driven to Buenos Aires by a driver provided by River Plate but on the way back they had to take another player back to Rosario and this caused an argument between the two. With five people being in the car Messi, Gimenez, the driver a coach and the added unknown player there became a problem between Gimenez and Messi. Messi and his friend started arguing over who would sit by the window and who would sit in the middle, after several minutes of arguing Messi decided to jump in the window seat leaving his friend in the middle, Gimenez was furious at Leo for this and said “Fine, you can have the window seat but you aren’t staying with me in Buenos Aires”.

With several weeks having passed Gimenez was living in Buenos Aires training and playing well for River Plate but Messi was nowhere to be seen. Messi’s father was aware Leo had impressed and had a housing problem so he started looking for jobs in the capital with him even asking River Plate for one but nothing came up. With River trying their best to find a solution but nothing working this prompted one scout/coach to say that if they didn’t get Messi they would miss out on an absolute gem of a player, but a more senior official said they had loads like Messi and would find another just like him.

So, there we have it. Messi never joined River plate and Gimenez stayed on for three years but had two serious injuries and after this he was never the same player and quit football. The two haven’t spoken face to face since 2000, however Gimenez sent Messi a Facebook message during the 2010 World Cup and Messi liked the comment but that is the only contact. What do the pair do now you ask? Gimenez is a customs officer in Buenos Aires and Messi, well I don’t really need to say much about how he’s doing do I?

Connor Parry

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