Bumping into arguably the greatest player of all time while on holiday would be a dream for every young football fan, but then imagine being invited to play football with that superstar and his family.
Remarkably, this happened to one lucky British lad in 2019.
Mackenzie O’Neill was on holiday with his parents in Antigua when he spotted Lionel Messi and his kids.
Young Mackenzie was on his own and started to play football close to where Messi and his family were relaxing.
Playing football during your summer break must feel like a busman’s holiday to many players, but Messi loves the game that much that he joined in with his young children.
The legendary Argentine forward was staying at the exclusive resort in the Caribbean – where villas cost up to £5,000 per night – along with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo and their three kids Thiago, Mateo and Ciro.
Some of Messi’s extended family, including his father Jorge, were also there.
Algunas fotos de las vacaciones de la familia Messi Roccuzzo en 2019 en Jumby Bay Island Resort, Antigua y Barbuda. pic.twitter.com/lXI2hCvyUk
— Antonela Roccuzzo (@roccuzzofanclub) June 20, 2021
Messi’s skills close up were ‘incredible’
“Of course, I recognised him because I am a big football fan and then his dad dad, Jorge threw a ball to me and asked if I wanted to play,” Mackenzie, who lives near Canterbury, told Kent Online
“We played football together with his son Thiago and a group of their friends for about 45 minutes.”
Mackenzie couldn’t believe his luck and described watching Messi’s skills close up as “incredible”.
A young lad was on the beach in Antigua and saw Messi and his family having a kickabout.
Messi’s dad invited him to join in and he later went swimming with the Messis and went out on their boat.
That’s a story he can tell for the rest of his life. pic.twitter.com/bgAHunWw5d
— Ball Street (@BallStreet) July 23, 2019
He saved a Messi shot and almost nutmegged the legend
The aspiring goalkeeper returned home and was able to boast to his schoolmates that he managed to stop a shot from the player considered by many as the GOAT.
“We were playing rush goalies and at one point I almost nutmegged him and even managed to save one of his shots, although most of the time he was passing to others and his son Thiago to shoot,” he said.
“[Thiago’s] a great player for a six-year-old and has the ability of someone at least two years older.”
Mackenzie, whose mum admitted she had no idea who Messi was before Googling him, added: “Later I ended up swimming with Messi. We went on a little boat and spent a lot of time in the water.
“He was just like normal dad, who enjoyed seeing his son play with other kids. He even lifted me on his shoulders and Thiago followed me wherever I went.
“He doesn’t speak English much but his wife did and was a good translator.”
Meet Mackenzie O’Neill, the 11-year-old who played football on holiday with Lionel Messi pic.twitter.com/ioEg0FAC7n
— PA Media (@PA) July 24, 2019
How Messi and his family said goodbye to the youngster
And he even received a special farewell from Messi and his family before they left the island.
“The last night Messi and his family were here I was playing with Thiago and gave him my football to keep,” Mackenzie said.
“But he ran after me along the beach and insisted I keep it.
“Afterwards Messi and his wife said goodbye to me with huge smiles. I am not going to forget them.”
What a lovely story.
It’s safe to say that Messi gave the young lad precious memories he’ll treasure for the rest of his life.