Argentina's little magician Lionel Messi has been one of the the shining lights at the World Cup so far, but the Barcelona man had to be convinced not to quit international football only three years ago due to abuse from fans.
The Daily Telegraph reports, that Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella had to persuade, arguably the best player of all time, to stay with the national side after suffering a torrid experience from hateful supporters.
The turning point for Messi was at the 2011 Copa America, which witnessed a very poor Argentina side, scramble to the quarter-finals only to be defeated by the eventual winners Uruguay on penalties.
The aftermath of this, proved to be quite catastrophic as Messi was targeted, above all other players as the one to blame for what was extravagantly suggested as a demise in Argentinian football.
The 27-year-old went from hero to zero and was now regarding as a villain in his home country, as fans viciously booed and jeered him - the same fans that are now adoring his influence and talent.
A big factor in Messi's criticism and hatred was, that his performances for club Barcelona were undoubtedly much better than what he produced for his country.
As opposed to many other Argentine players, Messi developed his career in spain, rather than his native land. This sparked rumours that his allegiances were in-fact with Catalonia, which even went as far as labelling the forward, 'el Catalan' meaning 'The Catalan'.
As well as this, there were strong rumours that he didn't want play for Argentina, purely because he wasn't getting paid enough, causing the player extreme unrest as he discussed with his family, never playing on the international stage again.
The appointment of Alejandro Sabella back in 2011 is now establishing itself as the most crucial point in Argentina's recent history, as he to was inspire Messi into not giving up on his country and to prove his critics wrong.
To do this, he seeked the advice of the then-Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola who explained how Sabella needed to make him the vocal point of the team.
"Understand his silences, build your team around him, give him the ball, and never, never, substitute him," said Guardiola.
Sabella, didn't waste any time in re-creating Messi as he first of all made him captain and then changed his formation to focus around his best and most talented player. The rest, as they say is history.
Argentina take on Holland in São Paulo tonight in the other World Cup semi-final. A much more competitive game is expected compared to last night, with the cameras set to be firmly fixed on the unmistakable Messi.
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