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"When I saw how small Messi was, I was open-mouthed"

Sunday supplement XLSemanal this week dedicates an article to interviews with key people in the life and career of star footballer Lionel Messi.

Mª Eugenia Cimas/ Ana Vázquez

"When I saw him coming off the plane, so small and so skinny, I thought I'd got myself in a right mess organising the trials for him with Barcelona".

Messi's first agent in Spain was Horacio Gaggioli and it was him who organised his trip to Europe: "Some partners of mine in Argentina saw Leo when he was 11 years old. That told me he was very, very good and that he wanted to come to Spain, but it was necessary to find a team with certain characteristics: a city where he could continue his growth hormone treatment, which was expensive and was the reason for the move, and also where his father could find work". "We called Real Madrid and Atlético, but nothing concrete came of it, and finally we set up a meeting with Barcelona. When I saw Leo coming off the plane, I was left open-mouthed: I thought "What a mess I've got myself into", organising all this, only for such a small, skinny kid to appear".

"I only saw him nervous once. It was when he had to give a talk to his teammates".

Juan Sebastian Verón is a teammate of Messi with the Argentinean national team, and shared a room with him at the World Cup in South Africa. "I only saw him nervous once. It was before the first game, against Greece, when Maradona handed him the captain's armband; but it wasn't the responsibility of being a leader that made him nervous, it was the fact he had to give a speech to his teammates. Verón also reveals details of how Messi is before a game: "He's just a lad sat in the corner. He doesn't tape himself, he doesn't use ankle supports. He plays a World Cup game as if he was going out for a kick about with his friends from the neighbourhood".

"If things aren't going well for him, it's best not to talk to him. When he's like that, I hold his hand".

Marisol Messi was five years old when she arrived with her family in Barcelona. She didn't adapt well to the change and, together with her mother, she returned to Rosario, leaving Leo with his father and his big brother. As the footballer's little sister she knows perfectly how to deal with him when things go badly: "When he's like that, I hold his hand, but I don't speak to him".

"He never cried, in spite of the injections for the growth hormone treatment"

Lucas Scaglia, currently a player with Columbian team Once Caldas, explains, laughing, that he is always introduced as "a friend of Messi", just like Messi himself introduced his girlfriend for the first time as "the cousin of my best friend". The tight bond between the lives of these two friends started in Argentina. They played together in all the youth teams at Newell's Old Boys, until Leo left for Barcelona. "I've always known him. He's a great player and a fine person", says Scaglia. He also talks about the tough times Messi went through when he had to undergo growth hormone treatment, with painful injections in both legs, "but he never cried once".

Estadísticas AS.com