Just like life, soccer can be impacted by fate and chance. Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and probably the best in history. A living legend who has marked an era and will continue to be remembered even after we are all gone. However, he had to go through multiple hardships to become a superstar and sometimes we forget how hard his foray into the Barcelona first team was. It was the summer of 2005. Messi was a promising player who was only 18 years old. At that time Barça’s stars were others: Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Deco. Therefore, young Leo was struggling to get playing time.
The situation was complicated, Barcelona already had full quotas for non-EU players with Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Rafa Márquez, so they had to consider the possibility of letting the Argentine leave on loan. Therefore, they began to look for First Division teams where La Pulga could play. At that time there were only two teams with a free place for a non-EU player: Real Betis and Cadiz.
The latter had just returned to the first division after a 13-year absence and were aware of the enormous potential of this shy, long-haired boy. After returning from a tour of Asia, on August 7, 2005 Barcelona played against Cadiz in the Ramon de Carranza Trophy.
That day, the then assistant coach of Cadiz, Luis Soler, approached Leo and told him that if he could not play for Barça, they would be delighted to welcome him and that he would also be an undisputed starter. The Argentine was very receptive to the possibility: “Cadiz is a very nice city and I would like to play here,” he replied.
For a couple of weeks the possibility of Messi signing with Cadiz was quite real, but coach Frank Rijkaard put the brakes on any attempt at Messi’s departure, thinking it’s best to wait. And he was right. On September 26, 2005, Messi obtained Spanish nationality, thus ceasing to be a non-EU player. In addition, he began to play more regularly and to be a more important player. Interestingly, that 2005/06 season Messi and Barcelona won the Spanish league and the Champions League, while Cadiz was relegated to the second division and would have to wait 14 years to return to the first division. The rest is history.
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