Lionel Messi's temperament and mentality set him apart from the rest, according to Brazilian World Cup Winner Edmilson. In a candid article for fcbarcelona.com, the former Barcelona midfielder reveals that Lionel Messi did not always have it easy in his early years in Barcelona.
Lionel Messi has always been praised for his natural talent and is considered by many as the most gifted player in history.
Edmilson, however, points out that while Lionel Messi was outrageously talented, the Barcelona of the early 2000s was not the easiest of teams for a young player to break into.
"There was a young Argentinian the breaking into the team back then, and 14 years later he’s still wearing the Barça shirt. I always thought Messi was different."
"He had such a strong mentality and skills like I had never seen before. When I came to Barça I could see this 17-year-old lad playing with us who had such amazing ball control."
"You may have talent, skill, speed or a goalscoring instinct, but it won’t be easy without the right mentality too. You need to control fame, anxiety, money and prestige, and Leo was always mentally very strong."
Edmilson also compares Lionel Messi to the legendary Pele and Diego Maradona. While the Brazilian midfielder is not the first to have made the comparison, he does substantiate his statements and believes that Lionel Messi's longevity is unique in football history.
"They have compared Messi to a lot of other great players, but they each belong in their own generation and era. But for a player to control everything on and off the pitch for such a long time, that’s what makes them different from the others."
"I remember an amazing goal that Leo scored when I was at Zaragoza. I played the first half and he played the second. Thank God I wasn’t on in the second half because I’m sure he would have dribbled past me too!"
"I was watching from the bench and it was an exceptional goal, so many different skills, changes of pace and direction, so much strength and such a cool finish. The day after we were in the dressing room and all saying the same thing: that guy is unstoppable."
Lionel Messi's patience served him well in the long run
Lionel Messi made his debut for FC Barcelona at the age of 16 in the 2003-2004 season, but had to wait till 2005 for his first goal in the Blaugrana.
The Argentine forward was trying to break into a team with some of the best wingers and strikers in the world. Lionel Messi spent quite a few years on the sidelines watching the likes of Ronaldinho and Eto'o eviscerate Spanish defenses.
"Leo has been up there for ten years, like Pelé, but there are others like Maradona who were only really at their best for three or four years. That’s where Messi is different. He was trying to get into a team that had Eto’o, Ronnie and Henry… but he bode his time well."
Edmilson also lauds Lionel Messi's former teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta for having similar values. The Brazilian claims that like Lionel Messi, the Spanish duo was patient and reaped the benefits in the long run.
"It was similar with Xavi and Iniesta. They weren’t playing much because we had Deco, Van Bommel, Motta and me. They waited to seize their moments."
While Edmilson left FC Barcelona in 2008, Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta enjoyed unprecedented success under Frank Rijkaard's successor Pep Guardiola and are widely considered the three best players in Barcelona's storied history.Published 17 May 2020, 20:32 IST