Former Barcelona star Cesc Fabregas has revealed what it was like learning his trade at the same academy as serial Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Born just a couple of months apart, Fabregas and Messi both received their footballing education at Barcelona’s famous La Masia at the same time.
While Messi would soon establish himself as a Barcelona first-team sensation and become arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Fabregas’ career hasn’t panned out too badly either.
He moved to Arsenal in 2003 and went on to eventually captain the Gunners, before returning to the Nou Camp as a bona fide World Cup winner with Spain in 2011.
Fabregas, who now plies his trade with Monaco following a four-year stint at Chelsea, certainly knows a fair bit about Messi then, and he was more than happy to share his experiences with the Talent Takes Practice Podcast.
Fabregas was the special guest on the most recent episode of the podcast, which is hosted by Robbie Savage and Matthew Syed and looks to impart wisdom to “encourage lifelong behaviours that are conducive to fulfilling potential” by “exploring stories of success and failure.”
Messi indeed meets that criteria having emerged as one of the two greatest players of his generation, although Fabregas has revealed that it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Argentinian magician.
When asked about what it was like watching Messi develop at academy level, the ex-Arsenal midfielder told Savage and Syed: “Leo had an amazing, amazing talent but he didn’t really shine, especially at one thing because he was so small, so skinny.
“He was dribbling all the time, he didn’t like to pass the ball much to be honest, and he as always on the floor – a lot. The first two years always on the floor, always the other players they were putting him very easily on the free-kicks and making fouls on him.
“After that he started growing a little bit. He was a little bit more powerful. They put him through the middle a little bit more so he was not so much on the wing, and after that he started to make the difference.
“He was physically not strong yet but he was very, very intelligent and he was playing between the lines like an expert. You could find him, he would know when to turn, he would know when to pass you back, he would know how to use the profile of his body – open up, shaping up and things like this.
“He was sensational and I think it helped him a lot to become more central.”
It’s an intriguing reminder that even a player as naturally gifted as Messi still had to be patient, adapt his game and wait for circumstances to shift in his favour to truly begin showing his full potential – the moral of the story being that nobody ever has it easy, and everyone at one point or another faces their own specific hardships.
That’s just one small snippet from an incredibly engaging episode in which Fabregas also shares his thoughts on playing under Arsene Wenger while revealing the difficulties he faced moving to London as a 16-year-old to play for the Gunners.