Gerard Pique has revealed how Lionel Messi initially struggled to settle at Barcelona, recalling the Argentine superstar's difficult transition to life in Spain, reports Goal.com.
In an interview with Jot Down, the centre-back recalled how Messi's adaptation to a new country and culture was a slow and gradual one, but despite his personal struggles said it was clear from an early age that the South American had world-class potential.
Messi left hometown club Newell's Old Boys for Barcelona at the age of 13, and with a lot of hard work and determination has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's leading stars, having scored more than 300 goals for the Spanish giants since making his first-team debut at Camp Nou in 2004/05.
Now 26, the four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner is widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever to play the game, so it's humbling to hear of his early difficulties, which will give hope to burgeoning young stars of the future.
"I remember that during the first few months Leo didn't fit in that well," reflected Pique. "He sat on his own in the dressing room.
"The rest of the team, we'd all known each other for ages and he'd just arrived, not just from another country, but from another continent.
"He hardly spoke, he was very shy and it took him time. I guess he needed space."
Still, it was clear from an early age that Barcelona had unearthed a gem, as Pique reminisces about training ground drills and matches where Messi was already in a league of his own.
"It's not been made up that he was already special back then," he added. "He had a special talent.
"I remember Rodolf Borrell, our coach - and I always tell this story because some things stay with you - he asked us not to hurt him. But we couldn't get close. Even if we wanted to we couldn't catch him.
"And he was tiny. I was miles taller than him, he was very small, but he was brutally talented. He moved so well, he dribbled round you so easily."