Lionel Messi is known as one of the best footballers in the history of the sport, and in 2016 he picked ten young players he hoped could follow in his footsteps.
In 2015 the PSG star collaborated with Adidas to pick ten young players for his ‘#backedbyMessi’ campaign. In 2016 the Argentinian returned to pick ten more youngsters he believed could grow into future superstars.
His 2015 picks included Timo Werner and Maxwel Cornet, and both players have made their way into the English top-flight since. But how did his picks fare 12 months later? Let’s take a look at the youngsters that were chosen by the Barcelona legend.
In 2016 Patrick Roberts was on loan at Celtic from his parent club Manchester City. Roberts ended his first season at the club with seven goals in 12 appearances, a Scottish Player of the Month award and a Scottish Premiership title.
He remained at Celtic until the 2018/19 season managing 18 goals and 26 assists in 78 appearances across all competitions. The winger then moved to Girona in 2018 but failed to find the net in 19 appearances for the club, and was eventually moved on to Norwich City the following season.
Since then the 24-year-old has moved multiple times, making minimal impact at any of the clubs. Moved on quickly from Norwich, Middlesborough and Derby County, the youngster now finds himself playing for French Club Troyes B-team.
With his contract coming to an end in summer 2022, it’s hard to imagine the youngster finding a place in the City side.
When Augustin was picked by Messi in 2016, the teenager was breaking through at Paris Saint-Germain. Despite making a small number of appearances in the first team, mainly as a backup striker to Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Augustin was eventually sold to RB Leipzig for the 2017/18 season.
The youngster stayed at Leipzig for two seasons, bagging himself 20 goals and eight assists in a total of 67 appearances for the Bundesliga side. In 2019, the striker moved to Monaco on loan but the contract was cut short in January after he struggled for minutes.
The French striker joined Leeds on another loan immediately after being recalled from Monaco. But this also went poorly with the youngster ending his spell at the club having played only 48 minutes of football.
After these unsuccessful spells, Augustin was released from his contract and signed for Nantes on a two-year deal as a free agent. However, the youngster only made four appearances for the club before he was dropped to the French side’s B-team.
In the 2016/17 campaign, the same time Boschilia was selected by Messi, the youngster had an impressive season for Monaco. The Brazilian scored eight times in 15 appearances, highlighting his natural talent.
The midfielder was then loaned to Standard Liege but would only make 12 appearances for the club in total. He was moved on to Nantes for a one-season loan where he would make 32 appearances bagging himself five goals and four assists.
In January 2020 Monaco sold Boschilia permanently to Brazilian side Internacional for an undisclosed fee. So far the midfielder has made 43 appearances for the club, but only registered one assist and four goals in total.
When Messi selected Muyl he was one of the most promising young players in MLS, starting for the New York Red Bulls.
Muyl stayed with the New York-based team for the next four years, eventually leaving in 2020. During his time with the club, the winger racked up 140 senior appearances across all competitions. He scored a total of 13 goals and tallied 15 assists, before eventually being traded to Nashville SC.
The winger has remained at Nashville ever since, appearing 55 times, scoring 3 goals and registering 4 assists in the process.
Chanathip had earned himself the nickname of the ‘Thai Messi’ back in 2016 whilst was playing in his homeland with Muangthong United.
In 2017 the attacking midfielder was loaned to the Japanese side Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. After impressing at Hokkaido, Chanathip was signed on a permanent deal in the summer of 2018. He made a total of 123 appearances for the Japanese club netting 15 times and creating 22 assists.
In January 2022, Chanathip joined Kawasaki Frontale for a fee of around $3.8 million. The move broke the record for the highest domestic transfer in the J.League.
The only female player on the list, Karpova was plying her trade in Russia at the time of her selection.
Karpova scored 11 goals in 33 appearances for the Russian side Chertanovo before signing for Valencia in 2017. Across her two seasons for the Spanish team, Karpova only made 24 appearances in total, with a disappointing tally of just three goals.
In 2019 she moved to Sevilla, bagging herself a slightly better eight goals in 32 appearances across two seasons. In 2020 she was once again transferred between Spanish clubs, this time finding herself at Espanyol. However, Karpova has only made 2 appearances for Espanyol since arriving, with a total of 0 goals.
Calabria has probably the least exciting but most promising story so far on this list. In 2016 he was playing for AC Milan in Serie A. Fast forward to 2022 and that is exactly where the right-back remains to this day.
Now onto the promising part. The 25-year-old has not been loaned to any other clubs during his time at Milan, opting instead to fight for his place in the first team. Each season his number of appearances has grown and in the 2020/21 campaign, he featured 39 times for the Italian outfit.
By the time of his selection by Messi, Manneh was already an established player at Vancouver Whitecaps. The winger had made his debut for the club back in 2013 as an 18-year-old.
Despite managing an impressive 24 goals and 11 assists in 118 appearances for the club, the winger was traded to Columbus Crew SC in 2017.
Manneh struggled to settle anywhere over the next few seasons, moving clubs six times between 2017 and 2021. His most successful spell during this time was with FC Cincinnati, where he managed 32 appearances, scoring 5 goals and managing 3 assists.
Manneh is now plying his trade at Austin FC but has failed to register a goal or assist after 16 appearances for the team.
In 2016 Chelsea-owned midfielder Nathan had made no first-team appearances for the London club but was enjoying a successful loan spell at Vitesse Arnhem.
The midfielder managed seven goals and three assists in 51 appearances for the Dutch side, but over the next four years, the midfielder would go on loan to four different sides before settling at Atletico Miniero.
In 2020 Nathan joined Miniero on a permanent basis, signing a four-year contract. The midfielder has made over 100 appearances for the club, but in January 2022 a loan deal was arranged for him to join Fluminese.
Kasper Dolberg is arguably the most successful player of Messi’s 10-man selection.
The now-24-year-old was having a breakout season with Dutch side Ajax and finished the campaign with an impressive 16 goals in 29 league appearances. Dolberg remained at Ajax until 2019, finishing his spell in the Netherlands with 45 goals and 16 assists in 119 appearances.
In 2019 the Danish forward was sold to Ligue 1 side Nice for a fee of 20.5 million euros. Dolberg was named the club’s Player of the Season after his initial campaign and has since completed 72 appearances for the French side. His goal tally currently stands at 23 with six assists, hopefully, the striker will continue to grow that number over the coming seasons.
The majority of these selections have failed to live up to the high expectations that were set for them, except arguably Dolberg.
With Roberts and Augustin playing for B-sides in France, and Boschilia and Nathan returning to Brazil, it’s hard to imagine they will reach the top level.
Manneh and Muyl remain in the United States, yet to break into Europe. Chanathip has also failed to find his way out of Asia so far.
Nadezhda Karpova has moved around Spain but failed to find the form that earned her a spot on the list.
Calabria remains at AC Milan and could yet have a successful future at the club.
Overall it’s safe to say that Messi probably shouldn’t apply for any scouting jobs once he finishes his playing career.