Denis Doyle/Getty Images
- Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi first played together as 13-year-olds at F.C. Barcelona's youth academy.
- Fabregas though Messi would be an easy opponent in one-on-one drills, but he was quickly amazed by Messi's extraordinary talent.
- Fabregas believes Messi is the greatest player of all time, regardless of whether or not he wins a World Cup.
Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi, two of the most-decorated players of their generation, first became teammates at 13-years-old in Barcelona's youth academy.
In a column for The Telegraph, Fabregas recalled the first time he ever played with, or rather, against, Messi, and how he underestimated the diminutive, soft-spoken Argentine who would go on to become arguably the greatest player in soccer history.
"The coach split us into pairs and he told me 'listen, you can’t let this boy get past once. You have to kick him until he doesn’t want to play anymore.' I was a bit surprised because we were only 13, but Leo was so small I did not think it was going to be any problem," Fabregas wrote.
"I was confident he was not going to get past me, but straight away he left me on the floor with his first go. It is something I will always remember, his one-on-one was amazing already at that age. I made sure I did the exercise with someone else after that."
Fabregas goes on to state that he believes Messi is the greatest player of all time, above his contemporary Cristiano Ronaldo, above fellow Argentina star Diego Maradona whose shadow looms so heavily over Messi, even if Messi never wins a World Cup.
"Talent-wise and when we talk about the complete player, Leo became the best goalscorer ever, became the best passer ever, he can score with both feet, his head, he can dribble around four players. He has vision to make assists, he is the most complete ever, no doubt," he wrote.
"He has everything, so whatever you give to him he will make it good. If I passed him a difficult ball, he would make it look like a good pass when it wasn’t. That is the beauty of Leo, he makes it so easy for the others."
Still, Fabregas said he has spoken to Messi firsthand about winning the World Cup, and he knows how much it would mean to Messi, and is rooting for his former club teammate.
"If my country Spain cannot win it, then I would be delighted for Leo to get the only missing piece of his career."