Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he and Lionel Messi nearly became teammates at Espanyol in 2005, but the move eventually did not take place as Barcelona decided to keep hold of the then 18-year-old star.
The Catalan giants were in a fix regarding Messi' situation back in 2005 as he was classified as a foreign player despite coming through the La Masia academy and the club already had three foreign players, which is the maximum allowed in Rafael Marquez, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o
Barcelona were thinking of loaning the star to Espanyol for a season but his performances at the Joan Gamper trophy against Juventus which led to high praise from Fabio Capello led them to change their minds.
"I started to hear about him when I was at Espanyol -- a small guy playing in the academy in Barcelona. He arrived when he was 13 years old, going from Argentina to Barcelona. Then I heard he was so close to signing for Espanyol -- very close -- in the season Barcelona played against Juventus under [Fabio] Capello in the Joan Gamper Cup," Pochettino said as quoted by ESPN.
"Because he was so fantastic in the Joan Gamper, Capello praised him afterwards and they changed the decision and kept Messi at Barcelona. So if you look back in history, maybe if he didn't play in the Joan Gamper that summer, maybe today he could have been the biggest star in Espanyol and Espanyol could be Barcelona.
"We would have been teammates, and maybe I would have still been in Espanyol managing him!"
Pochettino and Messi will face each other but this time in the opposition dugout as manager and player when Tottenham Hotspur host Barcelona at Wembley in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, the 3rd of October.