Close shave: Barcelona almost sold young Messi to Espanyol

Have you ever sat back and thought how some of the world’s greatest stories would have turned out had a little crucial decision may have been made differently? Had the Titanic left shore a day later? Had America not dropped nuclear bombs in Japan? Or, had Barcelona decided to part ways with Lionel Messi?

Well, that last one almost happened. According to Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino, a young Messi came this close to switching between the two Catalan clubs in his teenage years. Speaking ahead of Barca’s meeting with Tottenham in the Champions League in October 2018, Pochettino said that during his (Pochettino’s) time as an Espanyol defender, Barca mooted over a decision to release Messi to Espanyol.

One game against Juventus killed that possibility once for all. In an annual Joan Gamper Cup friendly, Messi made an amazing display that all but convinced then manager Fabio Capello that he was complete Barcelona material.

As you may have heard from other sources, Messi was a tiny guy in his developmental stages. Despite his huge talent, Barcelona knew that it was a gamble trying to bring him through the ranks. He even required a growth hormone to help him acquire a build strong enough build to play competitively. The people in charge might thus be forgiven for thinking that he wouldn’t make it. After all, they had the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho delivering results at the time.

Today, however, the little moment that motivated the turn-around has underlined one of the greatest stories of football in the modern era. Messi has collected multiple awards both for himself and for Barcelona. He has gone toe to toe with Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or for the last decade and, although his national team star has not been as bright, he remains an icon in Argentina.

How different things could have been!