16:05 GMT16 May 2021
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    Witnesses say that when Messi joined Barcelona academy at the age of 13 many players thought he was mute, because the Argentine was very quiet and shy. Off the pitch he struggled to integrate into the team and establish relations with his peers.

    Lionel Messi was so competitive on the football pitch that he wouldn't let any other player near him, said Andrea Orlandi, who shared memories of playing alongside the Argentine superstar in Barcelona’s reserve team. But according to the Spaniard, off the pitch Messi was a very shy person, who would prepare coffee for the club’s star Ronaldinho, when the latter asked for one. But when the game began, Orlandi recollects, young Lionel turned into a "monster".

    "My strongest memory was a training session when he came back from an injury. [Coach Frank] Rijkaard organised a training game which mixed B players with first-team players. I was with Samuel Eto'o in my team and against Messi. He got the ball in midfield and ran past one, two, three, four and five. He went around the goalkeeper and scored. It looked so easy - and he had just got back from injury! Maybe we were lucky that he was back from an injury because if he'd been fully fit, he could have done even more," the Spaniard said.

    According to Orlandi, Messi was so confident on the pitch, while training with players from the first team that it "was scary".

    "It was not pleasant training with him; you couldn't get the ball off him or get near him. You couldn't exploit his weaker foot because he was good on both sides. What really impressed me was how he got the ball in tight areas, running at six players, but knew he would get out of that situation. Most players wouldn't even think of doing it," Orlandi said.

    The Spaniard’s recollection echoes those of other Barcelona’s players. French midfielder Ludovic Giuly said that the teenage Messi seemed like an "alien" when he was training with the first team.

    "They were kicking him all over the place to avoid being ridiculed by this kid, and he just got up and kept on playing. He would dribble past four players and score a goal. Even the team's starring centre-backs were nervous," Giuly said.

    Messi’s side lost 1-2 to Real Madrid in El Clasico, letting their fierce rivals to take the top spot on the table. Barcelona is now ranked third with 65 points and trail one point behind Atletico Madrid and Real, but the former has played one less game.

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    football, La Liga, Lionel Messi, Barcelona
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