Lionel Messi was breaking into the Argentina national team during the mid-2000s. In an interview with Relevo, former Argentine forward Hernán Crespo spoke about what he saw in a young Messi and what made him special.
Crespo recounted the first time he practiced with Messi, as the two would be teammates for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 Copa América tournaments.
“From the first training, I was with Lionel in the 2006 World Cup and in the 2007 Copa América and he had just broken it in the 2005 U-20 World Cup,” Crespo told the Spanish media outlet. “We faced him while at Chelsea, he tore it, tore it apart. There I already saw him at a very high level, he was already different. Yes, the filming was missing.
“I have Messi’s yellow ’30’, we changed it in that game. I already saw that, you can see that, the filming was missing, we are going to the World Cup, it breaks it in the Copa América and I only had to enjoy it. It was seen to be different. It’s not just the talent, it was easy to see that he was dribbling everyone.”
Furthermore, the former Parma star also revealed how the Paris Saint-Germain star handled playing against adults on the national team who wanted to see if Messi had what it takes to play at an elite level.
“He was handsome, handsome to boot. They kicked him shit and he would get up, show it back to you. There is something that reminded me… in that game with Poland, Messi gets up and shows it to Lewandowski. And he has the chance to play, but he showed it to him and faked it, challenged him like in the neighborhood because of everything that had been said. That reminded me during a training session in 2006 during the World Cup in Germany.
“We were having a game and between Coloccini, Burdisso, Scaloni, Cufré … the defenders who didn’t play… Messi brought them all out, but of course, they were playing a World Cup: ‘This 18-year-old a–hole is Everything was fine, but they hit him…’ They hit him more and he got up more and more he faced you. Until a moment we all saw, from silence but from the football irreverence of giving it back to me, he earned everyone’s respect. From there, having some mates with the defenders, they said: ‘That’s it, this kid doesn’t get hit anymore. It is so.’ “
Messi has come a long way since those early days when he tried to prove himself to the veterans on the Argentina national team leading up to the World Cup in Germany.
It took the 35-year-old close to two decades, but eventually, Messi would lead Argentina to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup and perhaps some of the fierce love from those older players might have played a role in the leader he has become.