Remember Messi's First Goal?

The following is part fact, part fiction -- all brilliant.

Original article can be found here:

Little Leo That Could.

Leo sat on a bench after a difficult day in training. He had been bullied by the bigger boys yet again. For every time he had touched the ball, a bruise was his reward, giving his legs the look of an army soldier’s uniform. As he despondently undid the laces on his battered boots, Mr Rijkaard, the team’s manager, entered the changing room.

"Leo," said Mr Rijkaard.

Leo looked up at the gaffer, like a child to his father.

"You’re starting Saturday."

Shocked, the player could barely lower his head for a solitary nod in response. His mouth dry from nerves, he cleared his throat and uttered almost inaudibly, "Yes, Mr Rijkaard."

"You’ll be on the left with Ronaldinho and Eto’o up top. Ludo will be on the bench."

Leo nodded again, and Mr Rijkaard turned to exit the boot room.

"It’ll be tough out there, much tougher than today Leo... But I believe you can do it."

As Mr Rijkaard walked away, Leo let out a sigh, as though his breath had been held the entire duration of the conversation. He placed his boots back in their bag and wandered over to the mirror. Looking deep within himself, he questioned the road that had led him here. So many had put so much faith in him; his ability was unquestionable. Yet, he knew one thing, one thing that this mirror highlighted even better than the crick in his neck did: he was too small for football.

Leo stood in the tunnel, surrounded by millions of pounds worth of superstar talent, butterflies doing somersaults in his knotted stomach. Xavi, Deco, Puyol, Eto’o, Ronaldinho; posters that had once adorned this dreamy teenager’s bedroom now stood in real life around him, hearts beating, nerves gathering, genuine human beings, like him or any other. He felt a hand on his back as he looked through the gateway to the Camp Nou; a hand that covered the entirety of his name on the back of his shirt; the hand of a giant.

"Good Luck, Leo," the voice whispered in his ear.

Leo lifted his head to see Victor behind him, dwarfing him into the shadows of the tunnel. A lot had been made of Leo from a young age, and now the pressure had grown to unfathomable levels over the past few weeks, as he was being asked to grow quicker than his time. His age did not matter now; it was whether his maturity could cope.

The music fired up and the players of both sides strutted with confidence onto the huge pitch to the roar of a hundred thousand. Leo was deafened and blinded simultaneously as he crept out from the back of the Barca pack. The numbers on his back seemed to carry the weight of the world right now, as he felt the eyes of millions lock onto his small frame.

The whistle sounded. Game on.

A few minutes passed, the mandatory "feeling out" of the opposition. It was the philosophy of the club for everyone to have an early touch to calm the nerves, and Barca had been pinging it about, dominating possession -- but little Leo had still not touched the ball.

Finally, after 25 minutes, Gio slotted him the ball down the left wing and he ran after it, little legs scuttling so quickly it felt as though they might wind off him and up into the night sky. His first touch flung the ball a few more yards forward and he made after it again. He could feel the ground trembling as hard footsteps came homing in towards him, then--


A tackle form behind by Agus, a brute of a centre-back. Leo was sent flying, coming down on his back. Spots of blackness shot through his eyes as he looked toward the heavens. When the early evening Catalan sky came back into focus, he could already feel another bruise immediately form. The shrill of the referee’s whistle bought his mind back to the game.

Free kick. Yellow for Agus.

As they trotted back into the box to wait for the delivery from Deco, Agus took hold of his man.

"Welcome to the big boy’s game, little one. You were lucky that time."

A goal. 1-0, 55 minutes in.

Samuel Eto’o slotted into a practically empty net and the team ran off to the corner flag to celebrate. Flash bulbs lit the sky like an electrical storm. Leo hunched on his own on the edge of the box, not part of the celebrations, his assist gone unnoticed by the rapturous Catalan crowd. Superstar Sammy had scored and Leo had been left to pick himself up after another late challenge from Agus.

Legs battered and becoming heavier by the tackle, Leo made his way back to halfway, an hour in now. He took some respite on the touchline for a second as the play entered the Barca half, the Albacetans trying to make something of the game.

Mr Rijkaard came to the edge of his technical area, shouting, "Leo, go look for the ball. It won’t always come and find you."

Leo looked back, downtrodden and disheartened, but his gaffer threw him a thumbs up and urged him and the rest of the team to raise their game. In this moment, Leo remembered the simple encouragement his manager had imparted at training, and the kind paw offered by the goalkeeper before kick-off, and he felt adrenaline surge through his body. Barca needed another goal to make the game safe and Leo would do everything to make sure they got it.

Deco collected the ball in his own half after a mistake from Albacete. To ease some pressure, he launched a hopeful ball aimlessly forward with the outside of his right foot. It went high into the night’s sky, and the stars directed it into Leo’s path. He knew he had to do something with it. Stealing a yard away from the tyrannous Agus, he managed to flick a header on to Ronaldinho, who bought the ball under control as Leo shuffled past him toward the box. Leo checked down the line: the left back on the far side was playing him onside, and he was in space. He looked back to Ronaldinho, who had read his mind and already scooped the ball up and over Agus to come down on Leo’s inside shoulder.

Everything began moving in slow motion. Leo could sense individual flashes from cameras around the stadium, he could hear the panting goalie making his way towards him. He watched as the ball bounced inside of him and across his body, and then he heard his manager say, with supreme confidence, "Go on, Leo." He raised his heavy leg to meet the ball, and caressed it effortlessly over the stranded goalie and into the back of the net.

2-0. Game safe.

Leo let out a sigh of relief as the ball caused the back of the net to bulge. He made sure the linesmen had not made an abhorrent decision before raising his arms to sky. He had nestled his place amongst the Catalan Giants in that one, simple action. His place amongst the stars was cemented for years to come, with his first goal for the club. The first of many, he thought, his pre-match nerves now swept away by the confidence only a goal can bring.

The crowd was sent into raptures. Dancing, chanting, playing music, a party atmosphere engulfed the Camp Nou now -- and Little Leo was the Master of Ceremonies.

Blaugrana al vent
Un crit valent
Tenim un nom
El sap tothom
Messi Messi Messiii!

<em>This does not represent the views of Barca Blaugranes or SBNation</em>

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