The history behind Lionel Messi’s tribute to Diego Maradona

Lionel Messi’s connection with legendary Diego Maradona

On Sunday’s match against Osasuna, Lionel Messi paid a heartwarming tribute to the Legendary Diego Maradona who passed away on the 25th of November. Barcelona paid respect to their former number 10 before the match started but Messi wanted to give a more personal one, which will now go into the history books of Argentina and Barcelona. The history behind the iconic celebration is one of personal growth of the two legends and we must go back in the past to understand its value.

The game against Osasuna was a pretty normal day for the Catalans, they brushed aside the lower table comfortably with Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, and Martin Braithwaite all scoring before Messi slotted in the fourth and final goal of the night. After scoring the goal, the Argentine removed his shirt to reveal a Newell’s Old Boys shirt. This was not any ordinary shirt either, it was the same shirt worn by Maradona during his short stay with the club.

The reason it became such a monumental moment in footballing history is that Newell’s also happens to be Lionel Messi’s boyhood club. Like Maradona, Messi only enjoyed a short period of time with his club before moving to Spain in 2000. However, both the players left an impression on the club and the club formed a connection between the two players.

In 1993 just after Maradona’s ban was lifted, the Argentine legend chose to move away from Napoli and join Newell’s. He made his debut on October 7th and six-year-old Lionel Messi was one of the thousands of spectators who came to witness Maradona’s magic. Young Messi was not left disappointed as his idol smashed in a stunning goal that night which shares an uncanny resemblance to Messi’s goal against Osasuna.

The 33-year-old had acquired Maradona’s jersey from judge Sergio Hernandez. Hernandez, a close friend of both the legends and an avid collector of football memorabilia, had acquired the jersey and wanted to gift it to him. The Barcelona man, however, refused the priceless piece of history twice, before finally accepting it when his third son, Crio Messi Roccuzzo, was born.

Thus, when the fellow Argentine paid his tribute to one of the Gods of football by wearing his Newell’s shirt, it carried within the celebration, a deeply personal message of gratitude and respect. Although Messi is not as beloved as Maradona and the two went through a rather chaotic ride during Maradona’s managerial period, they shared a very warm relationship and both men had the utmost respect for the other.

On Sunday when Messi put back his shirt, it was like a union of the two greatest number 10s and a moment which will be cherished by every football fan. His celebration reminds us how the game of football can unite people and shatter the concept of time by memorializing the greats through the actions of the newer generations.

What is your favorite memory of Diego Maradona?