Fabio Capello is a legendary manager with teams such as Real Madrid, Juventus, and Milan, amongst others in his CV.
Capello managed Juventus for two years, in a period from 2004 to 2006. In that period, Juventus played a preseason friendly against Barcelona.
One of the standout performers at Blaugrana wasn’t Ronaldinho, but his eventual successor at Barca – Lionel Messi.
Capello was left blown away with the Argentinian’s talent, asking to get him to Juventus immediately.
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However, the Catalans were aware that the gem they had had to be carefully protected.
The move broke down before it was even proposed, and Capello looks back on those days in an interview with Sky Sports:
”There are categories and he, Maradona and Pelé fall into that of geniuses, those who invent things that others can’t even think of.
“They are not built, there have it in their DNA. I met Messi for the first time at the Gamper Trophy, we played Juve-Barcelona. There were 90,000 spectators and he was 16.
“I approached Rijkaard after 15-20 minutes and asked him: ‘Listen, can you loan him to me for an year? ‘He was 16, he came in and sent everyone into raptures. It didn’t take Fabio Capello to understand that he was a genius.
“What did Rijkaard say to me? I knew that they already had three foreigners and could not put the fourth foreigner on the list and he said ‘Fabio don’t worry, there are no problems we will somehow manage to play him’.
“The Catalans also had their intrigues. Even then Messi was impressive “.
As Capello himself says, it doesn’t take for a world-class manager to notice such talent.
Still, there’s a big what-if in there had Juventus were able to secure the services of young Messi, even for just one season.