Former Argentinian striker Hernan Crespo has revealed how Lionel Messi earned the respect of senior players in the Argentina national team during his early days.
He said the PSG superstar’s resilience during the 2006 FIFA World Cup earned him a lot of respect among his La Albiceleste teammates.
Crespo and Messi were teammates for nine games before the former AC Milan striker retired from international football in 2007.
Speaking with Spanish outlet Relevo, Crespo revealed that defenders often went hard on Messi due to his small stature and even went as far as beating him.
“They kicked him s**t and he would get up, he would give it back to you,” Crespo said, adding that Messi did not shy away from standing up to people who tried to take him down.
The former Chelsea star recalled that during Argentina’s 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign, “We were having a game with (Fabricio) Coloccini, (Nicolas) Burdisso, (Lionel) Scaloni, (Leandro) Cufre, the defenders who didn’t play.
“Messi took them all to spite, but of course, they were playing a World Cup. They said, ‘This 18-year-old a*****e is alright’, but they beat him.
“The more they hit him, the more he got up and the more he faced you. Until one moment, we all saw, not from the silence but from the football irreverence of giving it back, he earned everyone’s respect,” he added.
He said that from that moment, they stopped hitting the forward and started sharing drinks with the [older] defenders.