Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates with his winners medal after beating Manchester United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final. Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy. May 2009.

Remembering when Messi got drunk off his nut & wrestled a Chupa Chup

For all of Lionel Messi’s gargantuan fame and enormous success with Barcelona and Argentina, he remains a distinctly private person.

Yeah, he’s got a few quid and some flash motors. But he’s focused on his football and his family.

He rarely, if ever, gets involved in controversy. He once made a six-hour round trip from Argentina training to have dinner with his mum. He’s still friends with the same kids he played youth football with at Newell’s Old Boys. Even his tattoos are of his family members.

When compared to his nation’s other great footballing superstar, Maradona, you might even say Messi’s a little… boring. But boring can be good. Boring can be nice. Boring means no vices. Boring means no violence.

Yet even the most sensible people let their hair down once in a while, don’t they? Even that friend who is usually the one carrying others home after a night out has a tale to tell of the time they projectile vomited on a nightclub bouncer’s white trainers, right?

Well, Messi is no different. Apart from the fact that his tale involves a smorgasbord of world-class footballers, a very big trophy, an open-topped bus and a giant inflatable Chupa Chup.

Before we ruminate on Messi’s enormous Chupa Chup, though, the build-up to the occasion that saw him let loose is more than worth looking back on. Messi’s mad moment came in 2009, in the wake of one of his formative and still foremost successes.

It was in 2008-09 that Messi flourished into the superstar that we have come to love and revere in equal measure.

There had been plenty enough demonstrations of his once-in-a-generation talent prior to that campaign. He already had two La Liga titles, a Champions League medal and a Ballon d’Or third-place finish to his name for crying out loud.

But he had not been the sole protagonist of those league and European conquests, nor had Messi begun his mind-bending, relentless quest to break every goal and assist record going.

In 2008-09, things changed.

After a trophyless 2007-08, manager Frank Rijkaard was relieved of his duties. Pep Guardiola arrived, ousted Barca’s decadent superstar Ronaldinho and handed Messi the No.10 shirt. Messi was made the club’s highest-paid player and put on a new diet in an attempt to stop the muscular injuries that had bothered him previously.

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Guardiola was cautious with him, at least outwardly. “We can’t allow Messi to bear the weight of the team,” said the new Barcelona boss in June 2008. “I don’t think it would be good for him or the club.”

But the 21-year-old was ready for the responsibility, even in a front three that also included Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o. That season, young Lionel became Messi, finding another gear and overtaking, well, everyone.

He got eight goals and seven assists in the first 10 games of the campaign and did not look back.

By mid-April, Barcelona were in pole position in La Liga, in the final of the Copa del Rey and into the semis of the Champions League, with Messi having scored twice in the quarter-final first leg destruction of Bayern Munich at Camp Nou.

“We were rabbits caught in front of a snake,” Uli Hoeness said after Bayern’s 4-0 loss. That snake’s fangs were the shaggy-haired Argentine. And in May, the Barcelona serpent reached footballing Eden.

First came the two-legged Champions League semi against Chelsea. It was tough, perhaps the toughest task of the season. Guus Hiddink’s Blues ground out a 0-0 at Camp Nou, and the return leg is still a tender spot for Chelsea fans, who pointed to a series of refereeing errors at Stamford Bridge.

Still, Barcelona did just enough, Messi setting up Andres Iniesta for a late equaliser that took Barca through on away goals.

Wedged happily between those two European ties was a much more emphatic victory, one that served as the cherry on Barca’s La Liga campaign. At the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona not only beat a Madrid side that had won 17 of their previous 18 but annihilated them, winning 6-2.

It was Messi’s first outing in the new wandering No.9 role and he was devastating, setting up Thierry Henry’s opener and scoring twice to turn Los Blancos’ faces red.

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Real Madrid at Camp Nou, Barcelona, May 2018.

READ: Seven times Lionel Messi absolutely destroyed Real Madrid in El Clasico

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Then came the finals.

In the Copa del Rey – which was remarkably Messi’s first final for the club, having missed out on the Champions League showpiece in 2006 – they played Athletic and fell behind early on. But Barca romped back to win comfortably, Messi again scoring and assisting in a 4-1 rout.

Then came the big one, the chance to win the first treble in Spanish football history. Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, Manchester United, ‘these are the Chaaaaampiiions’.

And Barca were – the champions, that is. Of Spain, of the King’s Cup and then of Europe. Messi was magnificent once more. In the first half, Eto’o gave Barca the lead. In the second, Messi wrapped it up, getting in between John O’Shea and Rio Ferdinand to nod the ball over Edwin van der Sar and into the net.

“We were beaten by the better team,” said Sir Alex Ferguson. He was right.

Party time? You bet.

The open-topped bus was booked, the streets of Barcelona blocked off and, less that 24 hours after winning the last of their three trophies, the boys in Blaugrana prepared themselves to have a bloody good time.

By the looks of it, Messi prepared himself a little too well, applying a tad too much grease to the metaphorical cogs.

Thousands lined the streets and watched as the bus paraded through the roads of the Catalan capital. And as day turned to night, Messi got, well, messy.

He was filmed from above stumbling up the aisle of the top deck of the bus, swaying as he went. The highlight came when he reached his team-mate holding a giant inflatable Chupa Chup, which Messi tries to wrestle away. His joyful, Estrella-induced stupor meant his efforts were in vain.

The Barcelona players then got off the bus and made their way inside Camp Nou to applaud and address the waiting crowd.

Guardiola thanked “all of those who worked in the background doing the thankless tasks and who looked after these guys like they were their own children”.

Barca captain Carles Puyol pointed to the three trophies in front of him and said to the fans: “You’ve got them all here now. Thanks for your help in making this dream a reality.”

“Now we can say we’ve made history,” Xavi proffered.

Then messy Messi got the mic in his hand and, with his team-mates looking on in a mix of disbelief and utter delight, garbled some barely intelligible drunken rubbish at the gathered masses.

And, you know what, it was absolutely brilliant. This was before sensible Messi really took hold, before he came the full-on family man he is today.

Two days before that Clasico at the Bernabeu, he had been pictured having great time in an Ibiza nightclub.

Yes, Messi is a low-key 34-year-old now, but then he was 21 and had just proved himself as the greatest footballer in the world by leading Barcelona to an unprecedented treble.

Getting pissed and wrestling a Chupa Chup was definitely the right way to celebrate. Drunk Messi, we salute you.

By Joshua Law

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