Football News

“I was alone” – Lionel Messi opens up on unhappy start to life at Barcelona

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:54, 23 November 2019 | Updated: 14:31, 27 November 2019

Lionel Messi has detailed the difficulties he faced when initially arriving in Barcelona from his native Argentina.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner famously joined Barça aged 13 in February 2001 after then first-team director Charly Rexach offered him a contract on a paper napkin.

Overcoming his struggles: Five key things to know…

  • Messi relocated to Barcelona from his native Argentina aged 13.
  • He would struggle to assimilate and initially become homesick.
  • However, the playmaker battled those demons to rise up through Barça’s ranks.
  • Since turning professional, he’s gone on to register 612 goals across 698 matches for the club.
  • Messi is among the favourites to win the 2019 Ballon d’Or – success will give him a sixth prize.

Messi, who earlier in his life had been diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, would rise up the ranks to become the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Frank Rijkaard would hand the playmaker his first-team debut in the 2004/05 season and he’s since been integral to Barcelona winning 10 league titles as well as their last three European Cups.

However, it wasn’t always rosy to begin with, as Messi struggled to assimilate into his new surroundings and was tremendously homesick. In an upcoming documentary, titled “Becoming Leo Messi”, he offers an insight into what he went through.

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“I was in Barcelona for about 15 days and then I returned to Argentina. After a few months, they called me and I said yes, that I was willing to come. Let me come here and start my dream in Barcelona. It was a happiness for me and my family,” he said.

“I was looking forward to knowing if I was going to come here. The truth is that at that time I did not understand the great change I was going to be making. I was a boy. All I wanted was to come to Barcelona and play. I was not aware of the difficulty of changing and how hard it was going to be for me and my family.

“At the start…the truth is that it was tough, it was hard. The most beautiful thing is to play and not being able to play was really difficult. In the middle, I went through injuries too. When I was able to play here after two, three or four months, I got injured in my first game and I was out for another month and a half.

“They were hard times, but it never crossed my mind to go home. My brothers had gone to Argentina, my sister’s adaptation was the toughest of all, she was the smallest and it was hard for them, school and everything…they decided that my mother would go to Argentina with her.

“I was alone, and they asked me what I wanted to do, if we stayed or left, that the decision was mine and that he would accompany me. I was always clear that I wanted to stay.”

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