Spanish midfielder Esteban Granero spoke to Spanish media outlet El Pais this week and told an incredible story about his first meeting with Leo Messi.
Granero, 30, was part of the Real Madrid youth academy and now plays for La Liga club Espanyol following spells at QPR and Real Sociedad.
Gerard Pique, 30, came through the La Masia academy with Messi and knew exactly how brilliant his new Argentine teammate was from a young age.
Messi is undoubtedly the greatest player in Barcelona's history, winning five Ballon d'Or awards, 29 major trophies and holding countless jaw-dropping goalscoring records.
He joined Barcelona from Newell's Old Boys at the age of 13 and his first encounter with the Real Madrid youth team left a lasting impression on Granero.
The amazing story, featured on El Pais, can be read in English below.
"We were both born in 1987, I knew him [Messi] since we were 15. We went to a tournament in Villarreal with Madrid's U16 and we were staying at the same hotel as Barcelona. I had a good relationship with the ones I knew from the national team: Piqué, Marc Valiente, Cesc..."
And what happened?
"I saw Piqué at the hotel. Back then we used to beat them always, and Piqué saw me and grabbed me: 'This year we'll win.' And I said: 'No f***ing way.' 'Yes', he said, 'we have this new guy and he's fantastic.' 'Who?' I asked. 'That one over there.'"
"And he pointed to the pool and I saw a small kid, very small. Alone, sitting by the pool with his feet in the water, self-absorbed. Piqué is a prankster, he has always been, and I thought he was messing with me. In fact, what I thought was: 'He's messing with me and he's messing with his own team mate.' That was the first time I saw Messi."
How was the match?
"He crushed us. They won 3-0. He was spectacular. Very short and strong as a rock. But the craziest thing was how he carried the ball. Stuck to his foot, it was impossible to take it away. Shocking, it was scary to think about what he could become. And 15 years later I see him on the pitch and I think: 'F***, he's still here.'"
You can just imagine the 15-year-old Pique getting into his opponent's face and telling him how Barcelona are going to beat them.
Fifteen years later and nothing has changed.
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