Messi helped Argentina reach the Copa America final.

We’re delighted to announce that Lionel Messi has transformed into David Nugent

Alongside all his medals and individual accolades, Lionel Messi has cemented his status as the footballer that millions will idolise and seek to emulate for decades to come.

But his goal against Canada in the 2024 Copa America semi-final hinted at something more mischievous; that Messi himself has spent hours watching YouTube compilations and making detailed notes about a journeyman English second-tier striker from the 2000s.

Back in 2007, David Nugent scored on his sole England appearance by tracking a Jermain Defoe shot to the goalline and belting it into the net.

The celebration that followed, in a huddle with a visibly peeved Defoe, exhibited the kind of delighted absence of self-awareness that would’ve made Nugent a government minister in a different universe.

And, 17 years later on a boiling night in New Jersey, Messi finally got the chance to emulate his closet hero.

Argentina were leading a plucky Canadian side by a single goal when Enzo Fernandez took advantage of some slack defending to fire a shot towards goal.

Shifting his body like a man trying to get to sleep on a humid summer’s night, the 37-year-old got a foot on the ball to deflect it home and give his country an unassailable 2-0 lead.

The kinder judges among us will claim that Messi saw Enzo’s shot was travelling towards the net at the speed of an asthmatic ant which the Canada goalkeeper could’ve stopped it in his sleep, meaning his intervention was both necessary and correct.

But you and I know better; Messi had yet to score in this Copa America and channelled the energy of his unexpected mentor to snatch a goal from his team-mate.

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“What this team has done, what the Argentina national team has done, because after this everyone gives more importance to all the finals that me and the ‘older guys’ have played,” Messi said after the match.

“Me, Fide [Angel Di María], Ota [Nicolas Otamendi], and that Argentina can play another final is amazing.

“To be honest it has been a difficult tournament, the level has been as equal as ever, very bad surfaces, high temperatures that make it hard to play, very tough rivals.

“So the fact we made it and we are here again playing a final is something to enjoy and highlight.”

During his post-match interview, Messi spoke about savouring each moment in the iconic Albiceleste jersey, acknowledging that his time on the pitch won’t last forever.

“I am aware that these are the last few battles, that is why I am enjoying it very much,” said Messi. “Let’s enjoy everything that we are living and enjoying as a national team. It is not easy to get to another final.

“We have to take advantage because it’s not something easy These are some of my last battles and I have to enjoy.”

Expanding into further detail, Messi said, “It’s crazy what this group has been doing, what the Argentine National Team has been doing, because a lot of importance is being given to the finals that I and all of the old team played in.

“It’s amazing that we’re in a new final. It wasn’t an easy cup: very tough teams, very bad pitches, the heat makes it very hard. It’s worth enjoying being in a new final.”

Manager Lionel Scaloni expressed excitement over reaching this point of the competition, before warning of the difficulties that lie ahead for Argentina.

“It’s something to be proud of and grateful to the players for,” Scaloni said. “Yesterday, a colleague asked me if we normalize this, but the question was good and I wasn’t clear.

“It’s super difficult to be in a final, especially coming in the way we did with previous success and triumph. It’s double as hard.”

Whether Argentina face Colombia or Uruguay in Sunday’s final, we’re fascinated to see which forgotten EFL striker Messi pays homage to next.

By Michael Lee