It must be weird to look up to a player when you’re still a kid dreaming of playing football, then turn pro and find out, several years into your career, that he’s still better than you.
Here’s a selection of genuinely great footballers talking about how they idolised Messi. Maybe one day we’ll be treated to a player even better than him.
“I named my dog ‘Messi’ because Messi is the best in the world, and so is my dog,”
“I have admired Messi since my childhood. It’s special to be on the pitch with him.”
“Growing up, Lionel Messi was the player I looked up to.”
“Nothing against Ronaldo because I’ve seen it first hand, he’s an unbelievable player. It’s not an easy one [who is better], but I would say Messi because growing up he was always my favourite.”
“I look at the biggest players in the world and try to see what they’ve all got. I don’t like to compare myself with people. I try to learn as much as I can from everyone around me. Definitely Messi and Ronaldo. They basically just set their lives to play football.”
“For us Argentines, Leo is as important as Maradona was. It’s something that goes beyond football. He is the best in the world; playing with him in the national team is a privilege.
“He is generous; he shows me his movements, he teaches me to find spaces that apparently do not exist.”
“When I was kid I looked up to Messi and Iniesta. Watching them play for Barcelona inspired me so much. The link-ups they had and the goals they scored and created were amazing.”
“Of those I’ve seen play, Messi is the best in history.”
“Messi and football are two things that go together. I enjoy watching him, he does things that nobody does. He has a stature that nobody has, something special for him, everything is special. He’s a player who has football inside him, who feels it, it’s incredible.”
“There’s nothing new I can say. He’s spectacular, incredible. He’s playing further from goal and he’s still scored 40 in the league. If he played in goal he’d score 25. There’s no comparison; he’s the best, a competitive animal.”
“Messi is at another level. He has set the bar very high, it’s almost impossible for anyone to get there.”
“There is only one player who is a little stronger than me—Messi,” Balotelli said, after winning the Golden Boy award in 2010.
“All the others are behind me.”