Lionel Messi is closing in on 700 career goals.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored 697 in his career, a truly remarkable number.
And yet there’s only one of them that left the Argentinian feeling apologetic.
It came in 2015 in the Club World Cup final.
Barcelona had progressed to the final of the tournament in Japan, where they came up against River Plate.
Messi gave Barcelona the lead in the 36th lead but it wasn’t a goal he enjoyed scoring as much as some of the other goals he’s netted.
Indeed, Messi actually apologised to the River Plate supporters after making it 1-0.
Barcelona’s No.10 celebrated with his teammates before turning to the 16,000 plus River Plate supporters and ruefully raising his hand.
Why did he apologise?
It’s not uncommon for players to say sorry after scoring against a former club, or for scoring against a team that dooms an opponent to relegation.
But neither of those applied in this instance.
So, what was the reason?
Messi was asked about his reaction in an interview and admitted that he felt bad for the travelling River Plate supporters for ruining their excitement.
“I know how much effort all those fans made in making that trip and how excited they were,” he told FIFA, per Sport.
“And there was me, the Argentinian, scoring the first goal and ruining it all for them.
“I don’t know if I was actually saying sorry, but it was a type of apology.”
And yet it could have been River Plate whom Messi was scoring for had the Argentinian club not turned down the chance to sign him as a young boy.
Messi underwent a trial at River Plate while he played for Newell’s Old Boys, and even scoring 12 goals in one training session.
But former youth coach Eduardo Abrahamian revealed in 2018 that they still weren’t convinced and said no to Messi.
“He really made an impression on me in that first session, he was small, that was not a problem for us as we were looking at his technical skills which he had in abundance,” Abrahamian told Marca.
“He was really impressive, in the practice he scored around 12 goals, it was incredible. He was three or four days in Buenos Aires, I called the club’s director general and told him to come because we had something really surprising, his technique, pace, the way he left behind other players.
“They had to speak with his father to get him to come to River. I wanted him in the club but I needed to find accommodation for his father so that he could bring his family over. I wanted him here as you don’t see a player like Leo every day.
“I gave my opinion that you can’t let a player like Messi go. I said that he was a player with great quality and I was told that they already had a lot of players with those qualities and that Leo wanted to go home.”
Watching Messi score against them in the Club World Cup final must have been extra-difficult for River Plate supporters to stomach.
What could have been…
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