It might sound strange now but Lionel Messi initially felt threatened when Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Barcelona in 2009.
Zlatan, who joined the Catalan club after scoring 29 goals in 47 games during his final season with Inter Milan, was regarded as one of the world’s best centre-forwards at the time.
The same applies to Messi, although the Argentine hadn’t yet won the first of his six Ballon d’Or awards by this point. It would be another couple of years before football fans were debating where Messi sits among Pele and Diego Maradona in the pantheon of all-time greats.
Back to 2009 and Barça boss Pep Guardiola decided to offload the brilliant Samuel Eto’o in a lucrative swap deal involving Ibrahimovic.
The La Liga side also forked out an additional £57 million for the enigmatic Swedish superstar, who was 27 years old at the time.
It would be a deal that backfired on Guardiola. The revered coach fell out with Zlatan, who scored 22 goals in 46 matches for the club, in quite spectacular fashion and sent the striker on loan to AC Milan after one season at Camp Nou.
'Pep preferred to make Messi happy'
But was Ibra’s disappointing spell at Barça partly down to Messi?
In his autobiography, ‘I am Zlatan’, the Swede wrote: “[Pep] preferred to make Messi happy - he didn't value me."
Indeed, Guardiola opted to move Messi from the right flank to a more central position at Zlatan’s expense. The South American responded by scoring 47 goals in 53 games during the 2009-10 campaign.
Messi's text message to Guardiola after Zlatan signed
But notice how Ibrahimovic says Guardiola preferred to make Messi ‘happy’. Was this because of a text message the former Barcelona manager received from his star player following Zlatan’s big-money arrival?
A 2012 book titled ‘The Messi Mystery’ by Sebastian Fest and Alex Juillard - per Goal.com - claims a concerned Messi sent Pep a text message while sat on the Barcelona bus.
Unable to express himself with direct dialogue, Messi typed a short message to his boss, making his feelings crystal clear.
Spanish football writer Ben Hayward wrote: “The exact wording of Messi's message is disputed, but the sentiment straightforward. ‘I can see that I am no longer important to the team, so …’
“Unlike his perfect plays on the pitch, Messi had left this one unfinished.”
After two disappointing performances at the start of the 2009-10 season, Messi began to question his role at the club now that Zlatan was in the same team.
"The appearance of Ibrahimovic, a signing with which Guardiola had persisted, had been bad news for Leo,” the book states.
"Messi knew it and started to make his feelings known to a coach who had won him over by giving him the green light to play for Argentina at the Olympic Games in Beijing. But this time there was danger; Messi had failed to shine in a few games and Ibrahimovic was playing well. Suddenly, there were complications for the Argentine."
Messi flourished, Zlatan became frustrated
But the text message gave Guardiola, who was always acutely aware of Messi’s extraordinary ability, some food for thought.
And it may well have contributed to his decision to move Messi centrally, allowing the Argentina international to flourish in a False 9 role.
Zlatan, on the other hand, grew increasingly frustrated as the season wore on and famously lashed out at his coach shortly after Barça were beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Inter in the Champions League.
"You have no balls!” Zlatan screamed at Guardiola. “You are s**t scared of Mourinho!"
This altercation was effectively the end of the line for Ibra at Barcelona.
Messi, meanwhile, would go on to become the club’s greatest ever player and arguably the best footballer in history.