Lionel Messi — best ever? Let’s leave that argument for another day.
Let me tell you the unusual story of how some childish schoolboy behaviour stopped him from signing for Argentine giants River Plate.
As a kid he was diagnosed with growth hormone problems and needed funding to pay for his medical attention. Coming from a poor family, his parents couldn’t pay for it. Local clubs couldn’t either, so they had to turn to a bigger club. This is where River Plate come into it. Leo was 12 years old and he had been given a trial at River Plate along with his friend Leandro Gimenez. It was January 2000 and both boys were in a car heading towards Buenos Aires. Both were very talented and had impressed the coaches at the trial. Messi scored 8 goals in a 15-0 win. River Plate would house players if they were 13 or older but Messi and Gimenez were only 12 so they would have to stay with family, which was a problem for Messi as he didn’t have any living there.
He asked his friend if he could stay with him and his family, Gimenez said yes, like any friend would. You may be reading this thinking it’s a bit pointless but what happened next changed football history. The man who drove the two boys to the trial had to take another one back so there were 3 in the car. Messi and Gimenez started arguing about who would sit in the middle, Messi jumped in the car and sat next to the window leaving Gimenez sat in the middle. Gimenez annoyed at this, turned to Messi and said “Fine, you can have the window seat but you can’t stay with me in Buenos Aires”.
A few weeks had passed. Gimenez was living in the capital and training with River Plate but Messi was not there. Messi’s father was aware of the problem that Leo had nowhere to stay, so he asked River Plate for a job so he could live in Buenos Aires with Leo but they declined. One scout/coach said that if Messi didn’t come they would miss out on a great player but others at the club said they had loads of others just like Messi and they would get another player just like him if he didn’t sign.
Gimenez stayed on River Plate for 3 years but got injured twice, both serious injuries. After this he was never really the same player and decided to quit football. The two have not spoken face to face since the argument about the window seat. Gimenez however sent Messi a Facebook message during the World Cup in 2010. Messi liked the message but that is as much contact the two have had.
Gimenez now works as customs officer in Buenos Aires. And Messi, well I don’t really need to say much about what Messi is doing, do I?