Kevin-Prince Boateng has shared an intriguing anecdote about the unique pre-match ritual Lionel Messi undertook prior to Barcelona’s crucial Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool in May 2019.
Messi delivered a breathtaking individual performance in front of 98,000 spectators at Camp Nou against Jurgen Klopp’s highly-regarded Liverpool side. While former Liverpool star Luis Suarez netted the opening goal in the first half, it was Messi who truly stole the spotlight.
What did Boateng say about Messi?
Boateng was on loan at Barcelona from Sassuolo during the second half of the 2018-19 season and will never forget Messi’s unorthodox preparations before his first-leg masterclass at Camp Nou. The retired midfielder, who also played for the likes of Tottenham and AC Milan, wasspeaking on Rio Ferdinand’s YouTube channel FIVE.
Boateng said: “Liverpool first leg, we won 3-0, when Messi scored this free-kick. Unbelievable. So we’re coming into the dressing room, he’s just sitting there with his phone. Whatever, gets a massage sitting down.
“Two minutes before we go out he just stands up, closes his boots, we go out. Warm-up, just long balls, control, dribbling a little bit, crossbar challenge… at the warm-up Champions League against Liverpool. He goes back inside. Coach makes the last adjustments talking, Messi’s on the phone…
“The coach was talking, saying ‘now you have to go left, you have to go right’. Messi was FaceTiming: ‘Yes, Si, Claro’.
“Thirty seconds before we go out, he just comes down, puts his jacket on, goes out, boom. Go, go, go, go. Like this.”
Stunned by what he was hearing, Ferdinand said: “That’s nuts, man. This is the thing, it’s bad for young kids to hear this. This is the only guy ever to do this.”
Boateng continued: “That’s what the young players did in Barcelona, you know. They looked at him and they didn’t train, so they got injured. Malcom, Dembele, you know they always got injured. They didn’t train 100 per cent. So then going to the game, it’s different. He’s the only one in the world who can do that.
“I always compare LeBron James with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, and Steph Curry with Messi. These both their talent, LeBron James is hard work. Talent, of course, but hard work – likeRonaldo, hard work to be the best. Both these guys [Messi and Curry], they have just a gift.” Watch the clip of Boateng speaking about Messi below:
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) October 5, 2023
Asked whether Messi is as meticulous as Ronaldo when it comes to work rate and preparation, Boateng added: “No. Never seen him in the gym. Comes in, gets a massage maybe and plays basketball.” Ferdinand responded: “That should be illegal!”