He may have a reputation for embarrassing defenders from around the world on a routine basis, but it was Lionel Messi who was left red faced after momentarily mistaking a pitch-invader for former team-mate and Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.
Don’t worry, you read it right - the Argentinian maestro was perplexed when a supporter jumped the barriers whilst his national team trained ahead of their opening match of the World Cup against Bosnia on Sunday, and bore an uncanny resemblance to Ronaldinho. According to Goal the Argentina squad held an open training session before thousands of fans at the Estadio Independencia stadium, but things took a turn for the unexpected when dozens of avid followers invaded the pitch in order to meet their national icons.
Naturally it’s said that a vast majority of the supporters headed straight in Messi’s direction, but the 26-year-old was given more than he might have expected by one. Robinson Oliveira, who works as a professional look alike for former Barcelona star Ronaldinho, approached Messi, and the diminutive playmaker was reportedly so bemused that he asked the man he perceived to be an old friend why he was running onto the pitch.
Oliveira supposedly told Goal: “He said: 'What are you doing running on here to see me?' When he held my hand, I went down on my knees [and bowed]. It was so emotional.
"I didn't plan this. I just thought to myself that I have to hold his hand because this is the only opportunity I will have to see him."
Since the occurrence the story has spread like wildfire, and Oliveira now finds himself with a plenty of publicity which will no doubt aid his career. As for Messi, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner may well have been thankful for a little humour as he prepares for what will possibly be the biggest tournament of his life.
The mercurial forward will be watched in anticipation by the whole world as he looks to banish the notion that he is incapable of replicating the feats performed by Diego Maradona on the international stage, and is no doubt beginning to feel the pressure this close to Argentina’s first-game. Currently at the peak of his powers, and heading into the prime of his career, it’s unlikely that Messi will get a better chance to lift football’s most sought-after trophy in the future.
Having been made installed as captain by head coach Alejandro Sabella, the Barca star will be desperate to lead his nation to glory in the home of their biggest rivals Brazil, and he could once and for all cement his legacy as the game’s greatest ever player if he does so. The World Cup is virtually the only trophy Messi can’t boast to having had his hands on and, with the competition being held in the humidity of South America, his team find themselves ranked healthily amongst the favourites.
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