Lionel Messi opened up on how very differently his career could have turned out after revealing he nearly signed for River Plate.
Regarded by many as the planet’s greatest footballer, Messi has enjoyed a record-breaking career at Barcelona ever since joining in 2003 as a mere 13-year-old boy.
The Argentine forward has scored 603 goals in 687 appearances in a Barcelona jersey. 33 trophies have also come his way at Camp Nou, with 10 of them being La Liga titles along with four Champions League crowns.
Many people regard Messi as a one-club man, with the idea of him ever leaving the Blaugrana an impossible one to imagine.
It turns out, however, things could have turned out very differently for Messi. At 10 years old, doctors diagnosed him with a growth hormone deficiency. Despite his boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys promising to help pay for treatment, the money never came.
Then Buenos Aires club River Plate scouted a young Messi and wanted him. But Argentina’s economic collapse meant they couldn’t pay for the youngster’s treatment either.
And now Messi has spoken for the first time on just how close he came to signing for River.
“I went to River because one of my teammates went to Buenos Aires to try out,” Messi told Fox Sports.
“I played 20 minutes and scored four goals and they told me to come back with a permit.
“They wanted to pay for my hormone treatment, something that they didn’t do at Newell’s Old Boys.
“But when I went to look for the permit [at Newell’s Old Boys] they never gave it to me.
“Then later I went to Barcelona.”
After leaving for Barcelona in 2003, Messi ended his time at Newell’s on bad terms. Although their long public feud ceased nine years later and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner again expressed a desire to finish his career at the club.
“My dream was always to be a soccer player, to reach the First Division,” said Messi.
“I was in Newell’s, I was going to the pitch and my dream was to play in the stadium and live that.
“Life took me elsewhere, but my dream was always to be a professional player. Everything else that came exceeded everything.
“I still have to play at Newell’s, but I do not know if it will happen.”
Messi also confessed time is running out for him to win silverware for Argentina, with his participation in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar an uncertainty right now.
He was also given a Newell’s jersey last week.
— Manu Martín (@Soymanumartin) June 1, 2019