Lionel Messi almost joined Rangers in 2003 because of Football Manager

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Football Manager - and its predecessor, Championship Manager - has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting football’s future superstars.

For every Sergio Aguero, there’s been a Cherno Samba. For every Andres Iniesta, a John Fleck or Mark Kerr.

However, the hugely-successful video game franchise did successfully predict that Lionel Messi would become a household name. Not the greatest player of all time, granted, but a superstar nevertheless.

Casual FM players wouldn’t have noticed Messi on the game in 2000, but hardcore players - like Alex McLeish’s son, Jon - did.

The Argentina forward, who had only just joined La Masia, was already dubbed a ‘wonderkid’; a player with immense talent and potential.

Jon McLeish spotted Messi in 2000

Jon McLeish asked his father, who was in charge of Hibernian at the time, to bring the young Messi to Scotland.

Alex McLeish tried to sign him three years later

Obviously, the lad’s plea fell on deaf ears at the time - it was only a computer game, after all - but Alex attempted to sign Messi on loan for Rangers three years later, aware of what his son had told him.

However, the move failed to materialise after Leo scored twice on his debut for Barcelona C.

If only Alex had listened to his lad three years earlier, eh?

This story was revealed by the brains behind the Football Manager series, Miles Jacobson, who was speaking exclusively to the Mirror.

Imagine Messi at Rangers

Messi broke into Barcelona’s first team during the 2004-05 campaign and the rest, as they say, is history.

We’re not sure how open Messi would have been to a move to Glasgow - at 16, he’d just about settled in Barcelona, after three years away from his beloved Rosario - although the Scottish Premier League club were a bigger deal then than they are today on the world stage.

How many goals a season would Lionel Messi score in the SPL? 100? More? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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